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Homeless day center among items city exploring to combat vagrancy
The homeless are shown with their belongings at Wilson Park in downtown Manteca. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

City Attorney John Brinton pulled no punches Tuesday when he described what Manteca is up against when it comes to the upswing in homeless, vagrancy, and accompanying quality of life crimes.
A series of voter approved state ballot measures to decriminalize a wide array of minor crimes as well as Sacramento’s prison realignment has turned tens of thousands of non-violent criminals — who more often than not have substance abuse issues and lack means of support — onto California’s streets. That has resulted in California bucking a national trend to be the only state where the homeless population is increasing and not decreasing.
Brinton point blank told a packed City Council meeting that residents weren’t going to get the answers they wanted to hear from council members regarding the homeless because the council can’t give them. The reasons he cited included a settlement agreement that ended a federal lawsuit four homeless individuals brought against Manteca, court decisions, and changes voters statewide have made in the criminal code.
Brinton noted while major crimes such as armed robbery and assault are dropping there are more minor crimes due to changes that have been put in place.
“They’re not going to jail,” Brinton said of those who are repeatedly cited for illegal camping in parks, trashing property, and such.
He noted that most are cited and then released. And those that are arrested and booked in county jail are released almost immediately and end up being back on Manteca’s streets before the officer is through writing all of the required reports.
He noted the 22 warrants that were served on homeless and/or vagrants since May 1 after they failed to appear in court for previous citations had little effect — at least on one level.
“Seven out of eight of them don’t bother to show up,” Brinton said. That resulted in the court issuing warrants.
But because a warrant is issued, it gives police probable cause to search them when they come across them. If police during a search find something that is more serious such as a weapon, drugs, or drug paraphernalia then they can be arrested for a more serious crime that requires bail or time in jail if convicted.
Brinton also spoke against the idea of building a homeless shelter for single adults as it will only serves as a magnet to bring more homeless to Manteca.
“Build it and they will come,” Brinton said.
He also implored people not to write off Manteca, and instead to become part of the solution by working with the city to turn the tide.
That ranged from what he bluntly called “snitching” on those doing criminal behavior whether it ias illegal fireworks or drug sales and being willing to testify against them. He added that in the case of drug sellers, it can take police months to build a case that can be successfully prosecuted. He added often times police are trying to go “higher up the ladder” to get those responsible for moving the most drugs so arrests and convictions can have as big a positive impact as possible.
“Help us (the city) help you,” he said.
He also suggested people to join the effort to help get the homeless off the streets that want to be helped while at the same time being vigilant at immediately reporting issues to police instead of waiting days or posting it on social media a week or so later and complaining about it.
“Don’t give up in community,” Brinton said. “Take it back.”
He acknowledged that police may not be able to respond in a timely manner due to more serious crimes they may be handling. But by not constantly reporting quality of life crimes and crimes that have been virtually decriminalized by voters via statewide ballot propositions the chance of anything getting done to address them drops substantially.
He challenged those that implied Manteca had slipped — or was heading — downhill to look at other small communities of similar size and ask themselves, “don’t you think living in Manteca is better?”

Solutions council instructed
staff to explore & possibly
put in place
The City Council directed City Manager Tom Ogden to further explore eight options for possible implementation to step up the city’s efforts to combat homelessness and vagrancy.
Work with non-profits or the private sector to establish a day center, perhaps in the downtown area. Such efforts that did not include overnight shelters in other cities have served as resource centers to help homeless secure jobs as well as to get their belongings and such off the streets during the day and provide them a place to hang out.
Increased enforcement and using technology to address criminal and municipal violations. This could include installing street surveillance such as are in place in Ripon.
Switching to uniform citywide park closure times from sunset to sunrise to allow for more consistency.
Post no panhandling signs at hot spots where it is outlawed.
Work with the development community to build more affordable housing.
Establish temporary animal shelter solutions for homeless pets in instances where the homeless won’t enter programs to get off the street due to their pets.
Develop a video collection of homeless stories to educate the public on why people end up on the streets.
Design parks and developments so landscaping doesn’t create cover for the homeless.
Mayor Steve DeBrum wanted the possibility secured drop boxes for needles used to inject drugs to be placed in strategic locations added to the list.