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How to rein in redlight violators & end the running of the bulls, Manteca style

Red is the color of passion.

It is assertive. It is daring.

And according to colorists — a fancy term for consultants whose specialty is advising people on color choices — it also is “impulsive”, “exciting”, and “aggressive”.

Those last three words sum up nicely the type of behavior being associated with the color red these days on the mean streets of Manteca.

If you doubt that just watch a traffic signal turn red.

It causes people to act impulsively.

Why follow the law and come to  a stop? That takes impulse control.

It certainly is exciting especially when you have the green for a full three seconds and some self-absorbed idiot runs the red light a good 10 miles above the posted speed limit.

As for aggressive, that’s self-explanatory.

What isn’t is the city’s seemingly being helpless to make the streets safer.

Do not misunderstand. The domestic terrorists whose weapon of choice is 4,000 pounds — give or take — of metal and other materials are clearly at fault. They are wantonly breaking the law without ever a thought given to the safety of others.

Why should they? There is little consequence for their behavior.

They thumb their noses at red lights, stop signs, speed limits, pedestrians, and basic rules such as driving without texting.

It’s because they’ve got the good guys seriously outnumbered.

There are just as many “dedicated” traffic officers on the streets today as there was 12 years ago when there were 20,000 less people with a residential address within the city limits of Manteca.

There’s likely close to 10,000 more vehicles.

Let’s talk about those “dedicated “ traffic officers. They are called upon more today than they were a decade plus ago to handle other call simply because overall police staffing hasn’t kept pace.

As a result, the traffic unit is writing less tickets for moving violations — the infractions that contribute to metal and bone crunching on Manteca’s streets — than there were 12 years ago.

There are more than a few people that believe this is leading to borderline chaos on the streets.

Red light running is growing as a talking point in Manteca.

And it is because it is getting more brazen with each passing month.

Yes, the city has stepped up its game of late and is beginning to deploy more passive traffic safety  measures where justified ranging from stops signs as well as eliminating parking in areas that create visual sight line issues to roundabouts.

But the response that seems to work the best is enforcing the law consistently and issuing tickets.

The reason less and less semi-trucks are parking where they please in Manteca has everything to do with enforcing the law and issuing tickets.

You don’t need to fine every violator. All you have to be is consistent with enforcing the law and word gets around.

The only people who would be upset if Manteca develops a reputation to be hardnosed when it comes to enforcing traffic laws designed to reduce the potential for mayhem and collisions are those that simply don’t care to follow the rules.

*The police department can’t free up more officers to look specifically for traffic violators.

*The city can’t shift money from other services for more traffic officers unless you want a corresponding cutback in services.

*Raising taxes to hire more dedicated traffic officers among other public safety needs costs money.

In reality, though, it costs more money not to do so.
Manteca is now averaging three accidents a day that police handle.

According to the 2019 Insurance Fact Book published by the Insurance Information Institute the average auto liability claim for property damage is $3,638. The average bodily injury claim is $15,720.
If the city of Manteca was able to reduce one accident a day, the overall savings to the public would be $1.3 million

If 100 of those 365 accidents that were prevented had injuries requiring medical attention there would be another $1.57 million.

The city, last fiscal year, generated just over $7 million from the half cent sales tax in place that funds 18 police officers and 18 frontline firefighters.

If the half cent tax were doubled with 50 percent of the increase going to fund front line emergency responders and the rest earmarked to public safety improvement projects whether it was work that improved traffic safety such as signals not covered by growth fees, replacement fire engines or efforts involving the homeless that reduce crime what kind of impact would that have?

Nine more firefighters would add a second engine company to the Union Road station that is situated to effectively do the work of two stations.

The city could also add nine more police officers to bring the number of sworn officers to 81.

The additional money earmarked for nine police officers would be $1.8 million. If three of those nine officers were used to augment the traffic enforcement unit, it would come to roughly $600,000 for salary, benefits and retirement.

If the city comes up with an enforcement plan plus traffic safety plan with passage street improvements with a goal of reducing accidents by a third, that means a $600,000 annual sales tax investment at a half cent per dollar rate would save the general public $2.87 million.

An annual net savings of $2.27 million makes it look like a wise way for someone to invest a half cent every time they buy a taxable dollar item.

Now apply that cost avoidance to crime, having better results in medical emergencies, less property damage and such that can be accomplished through targeted public safety efforts and that additional $7 million could easily be exceeded in cost avoidance.

Manteca’s elected leaders say it is a bad time to ask for a sales tax increase.

They are wrong. It is a bad time to ask for a sales tax increase if they don’t have a targeted plan they can commit to that’s  designed to reduce property losses and improve the quality of life and safety in Manteca that they can be held accountable for delivering.

Cost avoidance whether it is through cracking down on the causes of traffic accidents or blight that devalues property and serves as an incubator for crime is money in the bank.

To give the City Council political courage, perhaps they can task the Public Safety Tax Oversight Committee with exploring how a half cent increase could better improve the community in terms of safety, quality of life and cost avoidance.

Have them examine various scenarios restricting how additional sales tax revenue could be spent.

Then have them present options to the City Council,.

The people who live here and are tasked with making sure the city abides by what the voters authorized are the best consultants to advise the council on a potential half cent sales tax needed to take public safety up on the next level.

If it is done right the city can tame the running of the red lights and other public safety issues that are moving toward epidemic proportions in  Manteca.


This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at