Manteca may hire and deploy two police community resource officers in a bid to help the homeless get back on their feet while at the same time combating quality of life crimes committed by some homeless.
If the two positions that will cost $99,320 each — some $40,000 apiece less than a patrol officer — survive a final City Council vote on June 21 when the $35.3 million municipal spending plan for the fiscal year that starts in 20 days is up for approval, it will mark a major commitment by the city to tackle homeless issues.
The budget plan before the council at Thursday’s budget workshop called for just one community resource officer. Councilman Mike Morowit, however, wanted to make sure the effort to address homeless concerns would have the chance to succeed by having staffing committed to the issue seven days a week.
“The goal is not to arrest homeless but to get homeless off the streets,” Morowit said.
Morowit believes giving Police Chief Nick Obligacion adequate resources will set the stage for a better outcome. He added “that being homeless isn’t a crime.”
“This (dealing with homeless concerns) is a seven day a week job,” Morowit said noting that having only one resource officer working four 10-hour shifts during the week wouldn’t be as effective.
Morowit said that “everyone that talks to me brings up the homeless.”
The direction Thursday was for staff to come up with funding within the proposed spending plan that currently is projected to take in $195,010 less than the projected expenditures of $34,727,265 between July 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017. However, if projected cash on hand estimated for June 30, 2017 of $243,337 is applied toward the 12-month shortfall, the budget will be balanced. The current fiscal budget ending in 20 days, as an example, will have a projected $438,347 cash on hand that wasn’t expected 11 months ago.
When Mayor Steve DeBrum — who wants to make sure spending during the specific fiscal year is balanced — asked Finance Director Suzanne Mallory how the second position could be covered, she said there were two ways: Not funding another position or delaying the filling of positions.
Actually none of the positions budgeted for the next fiscal year will be filled for at least several months including the two proposed community resource officers due to the hiring procedure. At the same time Manteca is sitting on more than $17 million in general fund reserves. That includes $8.67 million in unrestricted reserves that’s equivalent to 25 percent of the day-to-day operating budget. Simply reducing the reserve by $99,300 would allow the second resource officer to be hired while leaving $8.57 million that will be set aside and not spent for possible years to come if ever.
Councilman Richard Silverman concurred with Morowit noting homeless issues impact the entire community. It was a sentiment shared by the rest of the council including DeBrum who ranked homeless problems as second of the three biggest issues facing the city after public safety and before potholes.
Councilwoman Debbie Moorhead asked if there was any way the city could find a way to get some of the homeless jobs. Short of that, she was open to adjusting a leadership program that she had put in place for at-risk youth while she was executive director of the Manteca Chamber of Commerce to help those homeless that were willing to put the effort forth in a bid to help them get off the streets.
It’s been almost two years since the city — under the leadership of Obligacion — started a two-prong effort to address growing community concerns about the homeless. One was bringing community organizations together to try and help those that were willing to make an effort to get off the streets and the other was to enforce laws that some homeless were brazenly violating while being careful to enforce “the spirit of the law and not the letter”. That is designed to avoid creating a situation where merely being homeless and trying to survive would cause issues.
Currently officers are not only making homeless aware of resources but they have gone beyond that.
Manteca’s booking officer — when he is not tied up with other duties — has worked extensively with six individuals who were homeless. Of those six, Obligacion said four have managed to get off the street and stay off.
The resource officers would be able to do that and more to help the homeless leave the street. At the same time they would be armed and would be capable of enforcing the law as needed.
They are in the same classification as the booking officer. And while their primarily function would be addressing homeless concerns, if they are needed to respond to an active crime call they will do so.
City Manager Karen McLaughlin noted the community’s service officer position is not a dedicated homeless issues position per se. The resource officers as time goes by would be assigned to adress community issues designed to improve public safety. As an example, they could be involved with Neighborhood Watch programs.
But as things stand now the top priority is addressing homeless issues.
Each officer is $40,000 less in cost due to extra expenses in terms of workmen’s comp and other costs required to staff a full-time patrol officer or detective based on their day-to-day job.
The city will also set aside $45,000 for a vacuole for the community resource officers.