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Push for more watch groups
National Night Out takes place Tuesday
NNO top story
Manteca Police Booking Officer Mike Kelly visited a National Night Out party in a previous year. - photo by Bulletin file photo

You can find out where crime is happening by accessing Raids Online that’s part of the Manteca Police website.

But if you want to know where criminals are having a hard time plying their trade you’ll have to know where the city’s 20 well organized Neighborhood Watch groups are located.

“Neighborhood Watch is very effective,” noted Manteca Police Chief Nick Obligacion. “We have 65 sworn officers and 74,000 residents. Having extra eyes out there working with neighbors helps quite a bit.”

With the annual National Night Out parties next Tuesday, Obligacion is hoping that more people realize the effectiveness of working closer with their neighbors to keep an eye on each other so they can report suspicious activity. He is hoping they will step forward to form cohesive Neighborhood Watch groups.

To that end, Obligacion plans to step up efforts to help form new Neighborhood Watch groups once a community service officer is added to the department’s ranks in the coming months.

The new position allows the department to add back some services that were reduced during the Great Recession. Organizing Neighborhood Watch groups will be part of of other duties assigned to support personnel.

The police chief said there are more than 20 Neighborhood Watch Groups but only 20 are working effectively to reduce crimes in partnership with the police. He’d like to take steps to help improve the less effective Neighborhood Watch groups in place as well as add new ones.

At one point in the 1990s, Manteca had more than 100 Neighborhood Watch groups that gathered on an ongoing basis to help build closer relationships between neighbors so they would be able to tell when something was amiss.

At one point in 2009, the city had plans to “re-energize” the neighborhood groups more as community watch groups much like a similar effort on San Jose.

Instead of just bringing neighborhoods together to keep an eye on crime, the plan was to transform the groups into neighborhood sounding boards on a wide range of concerns from streets to parks.

The idea was not only to open the line of communications between the city and the neighborhood but to encourage residents to alert the city in a timely manner of concerns such as potholes and things such as vandalism to park irrigation systems that could go unnoticed for longer period due to the shrinking city workforce. Early detection usually means less costs repairing.

Obligacion’s goal this time around is more modest. He simply wants to get people more aware of their neighbors and neighborhood and to work in concert to report suspicious activity to the police.

That’s the objective on Tuesday when Manteca residents are encouraged to gather in the evening in front yards “to take back the streets” by staging potlucks and such to mingle with neighbors.

Those who register their National Night Out party with Manteca Parks and Recreation by calling Brandy Clark at 456.8623 will be able to have either Manteca Police, Manteca Fire, Manteca District Ambulance and/or Manteca City Council members visit their gatherings.

Last year there were 80 such National Night Out parties throughout Manteca.