Crime — believe it or not — is down over the last 12 years in Manteca.
Year-to-year statistics do show jumps as well as retreats. But in reality they are fluid numbers in trying to establish benchmarks. It’s because they don’t take into account growth.
Manteca had 55,975 residents in 2012. Today the population is at 73,000. That’s a gain of 18,005 or 32 percent.
For crime to have stayed pace the number of felonies — homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, residential burglary, grand theft, commercial burglary, vehicle theft, and arson — would have had to increase 32 percent as well. There were 1,728 felonies in Manteca in 2002. In order to keep pace with population growth, there would have had to have been 2,280 felonies in Manteca in 2014. There were actually 1,745 felonies last year.
That said if you are a victim of crime or live in a neighborhood that has a lot of crime issues all the statistics and trends in the world don’t matter. To you crime is going up.
So what are effective ways to reduce crime in Manteca? And equally important what drives crime up in Manteca from time-to-time?
It is clear with a drop in certain felonies such as aggravated assault (drive-by shootings) and such Manteca’s gang suppression unit is essential. A focused effort with the gang unit under former Police Chief Dave Bricker’s watch included going after landlords for creating havens for crime successfully pushed back gang violence and crime. But then city revenues shrank. In order to keep officer presence on the street the same and have the manpower to respond to emergency calls special units were cannibalized. Within a year crime started spiking. When Police Chief Nick Obligacion had the financial ability to restore the four man unit, the gang specialists went to work and crime in Manteca — after rising for two years — has dropped for two consecutive years.
Former Police Chief Charlie Halford whose officers often referred to him as “Inspector Gadget”, accelerated the use of technology to make officers in the field more efficient.
And before that when former Police Chief Richard Gregson formed the Manteca Chronicle Offenders, Problems and Solutions (MCOPS) — the predecessor to today’s Street Crimes Unit — crime started taking a dive.
Back then the late Steve Harris and Sam Gallego were the Starsky and Hutch of the Manteca Police Department working the streets.
The working premise was simple. Since 10 percent of the criminals police came across were responsive for 90 percent of the crimes, the unit targeted those 10 percent.
Targeted — and consistent — enforcement — works whether it is keeping gangs in check, reducing auto theft or even improving traffic safety.
Former Police Chief Willie Weatherford established the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police to relieve officers and other department staff of tedious but essential chores running the gamut from delivering court papers and directing traffic at incidents to enhancing community coverage through patrols that provide additional eyes, vacation checks, and helping with safety concerns. The volunteer corps is one of the largest around for a community the size of Manteca and is routinely looked at as a model for effectively integrating volunteers with law enforcement to improve a community’s safety and quality of life. The department working with the fire department has since expanded on that by adding the Community Emergency Response Team as well as the fire department specific Seniors Aiding Fire Effort.
Then there are Three Strike laws, preventive intervention with youth, community policing and “broken window” policing to consider. They all play a part.
Theories on why crime increases are all over the board.
There is one that is kind of unique to Manteca that has been espoused over the years by several different patrol officers. It has to do with “cheap housing” but not as you might expect.
Back in 1985 when the 192-unit Pennebaker Apartments were built, the developer had a hard time filling them. So he offered a $99 move in with no deposit and no last month’s rent. It managed to attract an inordinate number of people from out-of-town on the edge of financial despair who had bad credit that was the result of a lot of bad habits of which many were criminal.
It got so bad that police started referring to Pennebaker Apartments as the police substation given they were averaging almost two calls a day at one point.
The complex has since been cleaned up and remodeled and has minimal problems now that it is Sandpiper Village Apartments.
Other officers about a decade ago noted a trend among crimes taking place in McMansions — large tract homes that were popping up on the edges of Manteca such as south of Airport Way and the 120 Bypass. After several meth labs were busted and gang-related crimes in homes that were bought for $500,000, conversations officers had with offenders gave them a glimpse into what was happening. There were families in the East Bay that had stayed put for decades in older neighborhoods where things had gone downhill that were being gentrified by the tight Bay Area housing market. They would sell their homes — often paid off — for $600,000 or more and move east over the Altamont and end up in places like Manteca. Whether the children of the original buyers had inherited the home or the owners had children that had gotten tied p with the wrong elements, they brought those problems with them. They paid cash but had no income. That’s when the fun began.
In reality there were perhaps only a handful of home buyers that fit that scenario but it doesn’t take much to raise Cain
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.