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Manteca Police, copper wiring thieves & 2,300 marijuana plants
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It isn’t surprising that there are people ripping into Manteca Police for their superb job of taking out a multi-million pot growing operation in the heart of the Manteca Industrial Park.

The criticism is coming from two quarters: Those who want pot legalized and those who believe the police are “squandering” limited resources based on how they came across the indoor grow operation.

The pro-pot crowd likes to argue that police are unfairly picking on marijuana growers and ignoring those who “abuse” alcohol. That isn’t the case. Manteca has a rather aggressive record of going after drunken drivers as well as those who sell alcohol to under-age individuals including those that “buy” booze for someone under 21.

The police also do not make the laws. They enforce the laws to the best of their ability. And while they have discretion within the framework on the law, it is not their right to ignore laws on a wholesale basis.

The people of California - through the initiative process and their representatives - have made it clear they support medical marijuana but that is it.

Anyone who believes 2,300 marijuana plants were being grown for personal consumption is doing nothing but undermining what legitimate arguments there are for even legalizing marijuana for medical purposes.

As for police squandering their limited resources, that is also not the case.

The pot grow was discovered inadvertently in the aftermath of a stake out to try and arrest the parties responsible for repeated copper wiring theft in various buildings in the Manteca Industrial Park. Police spotted a man bicycling away from the area with copper piping. After they stopped him, officers attempted to match the piping to the building they were staking out but it did not match. So they started looking around for a building it did match. That is how they came across the marijuana operation.

Several irate citizens claim that the entire copper pipe stake out was a waste of time.

How would they like to be a victim of copper thieves? The owner of the former Turnkey Solutions building on Industrial Park Drive has suffered $250,000 in losses from not just the copper theft but also from the wanton destruction of the building while the culprits go about trying to steal copper.

It has made it next to impossible for the owner to prepare the building for a potential employer. It has cost Manteca jobs plus it is threatening to spread blight.

Copper thieves have the potential of creating major damage to existing businesses and law-abiding citizens.

Last year thieves who stripped copper off several irrigation pumps in rural Manteca cost farmers tens of thousands of dollars in lost crops during a heat wave.

They also have been known to strip copper from vacant homes causing thousands upon thousands of dollars of losses in each case. They have even been bold enough to climb on the roofs of businesses and rip off wire from air conditioning and refrigeration units.

The most brazen incident was in late 2009 when one culprit was caught trying to strip the copper wiring off a railroad crossing arm in full view of police.

Copper theft isn’t a victimless crime just as vehicle theft isn’t.

And both crimes were at even higher levels three years ago long before budget cuts forced Manteca Police to work even smarter and harder.

Second guessing police is a full-time vocation for some folks.

The police, though, were doing their job conducting a stake out in an attempt to nab prolific copper thieves.

They also were doing their job when they shut down the marijuana growing operation.