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David Martin: How Manteca could put police officer on every block without busting the bank
martin home depot
Manteca City Council hopeful David Martin is shown with veteran and Trump supporter Donald Mills who helped him load his truck this week at the Manteca Home Depot. Martin said they talked about life, family, and politics. He noted “we agreed on some things and disagreed on most but we heard each other’s point of view with respect and I made a new friend.”

David Martin  — if he had his druthers — would make it mandatory that every young person serve 90 days in the military.

He believes the time that essentially would cover basic training would not only give them a better perspective of what the military does but would do them well in terms of how they live their life.

It would give them a quick course in soft skills such as teamwork, disciple, and punctuality, perseverance, respecting others, and learning to interact with others from different walks of life plus build confidence.

Martin, by the way, served with the U.AS. Army’s 121st Infantry Division.

It might strike you as being far afield from what Martin hopes to accomplish if he is elected to the Manteca City Council on Nov. 3. but it really isn’t.

It will help you understand why he is so passionate about his vision of extending the Manteca Junior Police Academy experience to every student in Manteca.

“I want to see a version of what former Police Chief Dave Bricker started 12 years ago in every classroom,” Martin said.

Participation in the junior police academy — typically a two-week endeavor in the summer — helps build communications between young people and police.

It goes hand-in-hand with his vision of stepping up the effectiveness of the Manteca Police Department and as a byproduct — the respect of police officers by young people as well as others in the community.

Part of that vision is getting staffing to the point that at the beginning of each shift, an officer drives to a block in his patrol zone, parks his police car, and gets out and walks. During that hour he can talk to citizens to hear their concerns, get a better feel for the community and the people they are protecting, and even do things such as shoot hoops with kids. Each shift would be a different block.

Its part community policing combined with the relationship that old-school beat cops once had with the community they served.

If you think it is essentially a public relations stunt you are way off the mark.

Not only does it foster respect but it also a way to go about more effective policing which is to work to prevent crime from happening in the first place.

That first hour spent walking a block would offer many opportunities. Officers could advise residents on steps they could take to make their homes and families less susceptible to crime. They could hear concerns about neighborhood safety whether it is speeding or criminal activities. It would be as much for “intelligence” gathering on safety issues people have as it would be to look for solutions. But perhaps most important it breaks down barriers that are inadvertently created when people don’t take the time to interact in person.  In short, it builds trust.

It can also reduce the stress officers have by dealing with people in a positive light every day. That is important when 90 percent of the encounters people have with police are not exactly of a positive nature as it usually means they have been a victim of a crime, have been pulled over for a traffic violation, a domestic situation has mushroomed out of control, or have been arrested.

It also can be done with a modest increase in personnel.

Martin supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that has passed the House of Representatives and is now waiting for a vote in the Senate. The measure increases accountability in officer misconduct cases, enhances transparency and data collection as well as eliminates discriminatory policing practices.

Going a step further he believes to avoid any possible bias that any police officer involved shooting should be examined by an outside investigator and not the district attorney’s office.

None of this implies that Martin has a problem with the Manteca Police Department as he supports “Manteca law enforcement on doing the great job they have always done maintaining the safety of families.”

Instead he wants to take policing to the next level.

By doing so Manteca would be once again embracing things that have worked in the past but when budget cuts during the Great Recession hit they got tossed to the wayside.

If you are a tough on crime type, history shows that Martin’s proposals make sense.

Manteca in the 1980s due to rapid growth at the time had a proliferation of juvenile crime because of a large number of latchkey kids created by the need of both parents to commute to jobs to support their families. Unsupervised youth tend to get into trouble. Police personnel not only stepped up to help the community secure a Boys & Girls Club but for years many of the coaches for the club’s basketball and flag football teams were off-duty Manteca Police officers.

The police, after years of being caught in a vicious cycle with heavy drug use problems in and around the downtown area much more serious than what has been experienced in recent years, took a holistic approach.

First they determined a number of law-abiding but poor people including single moms with children that lived in some of the second floor efficiency apartments in downtown were being forced to live among squalor exacerbated by drug user.

Much of the runaway drug problem that earned some second floor residential areas monikers such as Meth Manor and Heroin Heights was the byproduct of what had been allowed to unfold over the years.

The police — relying on a community service officer dedicated to crime prevention to do much of the leg work — put together an inter-department and inter-agency team. It included fire, public works, the health department, probation, and building inspection among others.

That allowed them to get at the root of how the alleys and streets of downtown at that time had turned into a virtual drug users’ Mecca after the sun went down. In organized sweeps those wanted for parole violations were arrested. Building and fire safety issues were red tagged and property owners forced to make improvements. The law-abiding victims that had to live in the situation because they had no choice developed trust with the police.

Within months there was almost a 180-degree turnaround.

The department, using their crime prevention officer as the point, oversaw the establishments of more than 100 Neighborhood Watch Groups. While they worked with the crime prevention officer the department arranged for patrol officers to attend neighborhood gatherings. The goal was to help residents get a better idea of how police operate, the restrictions they deal with, how to effectively report crime, to feel free to call whenever they see anything suspicious in their neighborhood and to work with neighbors to keep an eye out for each other. At the same time officers got a better feel for the neighborhoods they help protect.

Those two strategies combined to attack one of the most trying periods in Manteca — the summer of 2002 when literally every other night there was at least one drive-by shooting somewhere in the city with most occurring in the Southside Park neighborhood south of downtown.

By building trust with the people who lived in fear in such areas they started working on targeting the instigators more effectively.

The end result was drive-by shootings stopped being a regular thing, families and kids were able to once again use a neighborhood park, and calls for service plummeted.

Sometimes it takes a fresh air of eyes find ways to do things better.