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Fences: What a difference a foot makes
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I bought my home in 2008.
The fence along the alley was barely standing up. It had to be replaced.
I went down to the Manteca building department and inquired about a permit. I was told I didn’t need one. I asked if I needed a permit to add lattice on the top of a 6-foot fence. Much to my surprise I was told I could have a 7-foot fence without a permit. There was no need for the lattice but I could add it to a 6-foot fence if I wanted.
This struck me as odd as a few years prior during a Manteca City Council meeting a rather angry citizen was blasting the city after receiving a notice of violation for having a 7-foot fence. He was told it had to be reduced to a 6-foot height or else.
The City of Manteca has a long track record of being as clear as 1040 instructions when it comes to fence heights.
I appreciate the Manteca Police Department’s position regarding 7-foot fences increasing risk to officers chasing suspects that hop fences. I get it. It is always dicey landing. Add to it 25 to 30 pounds of gear and there can be safety issues.
Assuming police have upwards of 30 foot chases a year that involve fences and perhaps need to look in backyards roughly 30 times a month responding to burglary calls and such, I can also see their concern.
But here’s the rub. My home backs up to an alley. I did not get a new fence — that set me back $5,100 — in place until a month after I moved in. There was evidence based on knocked out boards and such that people had either entered my yard or tried to do so on six different occasions in less than two weeks before the new fence was in place.
I did not call the police. I simply put the boards back in place and kept my fingers crossed.
The 7-foot fence eliminated the problem.
But then six months later, a new “security” problem popped up. An absentee landlord rented a home four doors down to a couple that proceeded to establish a drug house.
I get home from work in the wee hours of the morning. Not only did I notice a lot of activity in the alley but so did my dogs as well as neighbors’ dogs. There was more foot and auto traffic at 3 a.m. going the alley than there was during the day on the street in front of my home.
One time as I was driving down Powers Avenue at 2 a.m. going home from work, I was passed by two Manteca Police cars. Imagine my surprise pulling up to my house and finding police in my front yard.
They were searching for a guy that neighbors — taking a smoke break on their front porch after watching a late movie and before going to bed — said tried to scale my fence.
Twice, they said, they saw him try to go up and over. Each time he couldn’t quite do it. The last time he sat down on the ground and started cursing.
Just before police arrived he took off down the street.
Later on, they found the guy who they determined was strung out on meth.
Police eventually were able to build a case and get rid of the drug house. That eliminated a lot of the problems. Then 16 months ago the city started addressing homeless issues. That took a lot of pressure off the Powers Tract neighborhood as the homeless started staying on the move and stopped putting down anchor so to speak in alleys and/or garages of vacant homes in the neighborhood.
While I’m sure there are teens and lithe 20 somethings that are criminals that can clear a 7-foot fence with ease I know the meth head that was trying to get into my backyard couldn’t. I’m sure that extra foot of wood prevented me from being a crime victim.
And a key to reducing crime is to make it more difficult for criminals to ply their trade as we are repeatedly reminded by law enforcement.
I’d venture to say the odds of my home being burglarized is significantly higher than a police foot pursuit going up and over my fence.
No disrespect to the police on this one, but the Manteca City Council needs to give a lot of thought to passive crime prevention just as they do to passive speed control.
Manteca needs to be less welcoming to criminals. If 7-foot fences can deter even 10 percent of the fence hoppers that work as thieves that’s a start.
That said while the police would probably appreciate another five officers to augment the force they’d also appreciate us not leaving our cars unattended with the motor running, things of valuable in clear view inside our vehicles, or our houses darkened throughout the night.
Making Manteca less conducive for criminals may be the calling of 72 men and women who wear the Manteca Police uniform but it’s the job of all law-abiding residents.
The City Council needs to give the police the tools they need and the citizens the ability to secure their property to make Manteca safer.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.