In a bid to protect citizens frequenting the Stanislaus River and its riparian forest along its banks, the Ripon Police Department is again patrolling the waters in Kayaks and four wheel drive quads focusing on the area of the Highway 99 Bridge.
Ripon First Sergeant Steve Merchant said officers are focusing on illegal encampments that destroy the riparian forest areas, combating graffiti, drug and alcohol use, illegal camp fires, trash dumping, gang activity and various vandalism issues.
“Ripon will be taking a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to all crimes big and small,” Merchant said.
The sergeant added that several suspects have been contacted by officers for their illegal encampments in recent weeks. One suspect was found to be on searchable probation that initiated a subsequent probation search by officers. A syringe and suspected methamphetamine were ALLEGEDLYdiscovered in his possession.
Thomas Joseph Bettencourt, 33, of Ripon was booked into the San Joaquin County Jail on felony drug charges, Merchant said.
“Increasing our presence (on the river) will combat a host of issues,” he added.
The area around the Highway 99 bridge has become an attractive area for hikers and sun bathers as well as a location where many have put their rafts and kayaks into the river to float down to Jack Tone Road while others go on to Caswell State Park.
Just north of the bridge is the popular bike and hiking bridge across the Stanislaus that serves pedestrian traffic through the growth of trees and across the waterway into Stanislaus County. The purpose of the increased enforcement is to make the community feel safe about frequenting the river areas.