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Kayak patrol busts illegal river encampment
Ripon police officers made an arrest Thursday afternoon at a Stanislaus River bank encampment as they patrolled the area in their kayaks. The Highway 99 freeway runs north and south above the river. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The discovery of an illegal encampment along the banks of the Stanislaus River by Ripon officers Thursday afternoon netted one arrest for drug possession, according to First Sergeant Steve Merchant.

Shortly before 3 p.m. officers floating down the river in their kayaks near the Highway 99 bridge found several suspects living on the side of the river initiating an investigation of their camp.

Thomas Joseph Bettencourt, 33, of Ripon was booked into the San Joaquin County jail on felony charges including methamphetamine possession after found to be on searchable probation.

Sgt. Merchant said the department is currently increasing its patrols of the Stanislaus River in order to help ensure the safety of its citizens who frequent the Ripon river parks in an effort to combat illegal encampments that destroy the riparian forest areas, also combating graffiti and theft issues.

The Ripon department is no longer able to use their powered parachute for Ripon searches having reached the three year loan of the aircraft from the Department of Justice.