Who should hold sway over these city streets? It’s a debate that is taking place behind closed doors and in front of the media now that San Jose is on pace to break the annual record for homicides going back 15 years.
Between Aug. 13 and Aug. 21, seven people were killed and five wounded in shootings, according to the Mercury News. There have been 32 reported homicides in San Jose this year. In 2011, there were a total of 39, according to SJPD statistics.
On Friday morning, Police Chief Chris Moore will address the media following a meeting of Mayor Chuck Reed’s Gang Prevention Task Force Policy Team. City Manager Debra Figone sent a memo to the mayor and City Council on Wednesday, stating, “At this news conference I anticipate that the Police Department will be able to report on recent results of this coordinated effort to investigate these crimes, disrupt gang activity, and stop the violence.”
Police union leaders have chalked up the increase in homicides as well as property crimes, assaults and rapes, as a direct correlation to cutbacks and officers leaving the department for other agencies or early retirement.
Following a mini-mutiny among the Police Officers Association leadership, in which a preliminary no-confidence vote
regarding the chief’s performance was raised and quickly squashed, Moore is now receiving some not-so-subtle criticism from elected officials from the hard-hit east side of San Jose.
On Tuesday, State Assemblymember Nora Campos (D-San Jose) sent an “open letter” to Moore, encouraging him to ask the California Highway Patrol for assistance in combatting crime and patrolling city streets. Oakland, Richmond and other areas that are home to a substantial number of violent crimes have gone the CHP assistance route, but San Jose is not near that level at this time.
In the last paragraph of her letter, Campos writes that she would like to “put political rhetoric aside,” which would be easier to believe if it wasn’t an “open letter” to Moore and the media.
“As is normally the case in San Jose, you will likely take this letter to the Mayor and City Manager for counsel,” Campos writes. “If that is in fact the case, know that this request is driven by what I believe to be our mutual desire to keep the residents of our San Jose safe. At least for this moment, let us put political rhetoric aside and fight for the very people that have put their trust in us.”
The chief told the media “no thanks” in response to Campos’ suggestion, but more than likely he bristled at the thought of giving up control of some of his city streets to an outside organization, not to mention taking law enforcement tips from a legislator. One need only look at the airport turf war that took place last year between SJPD and the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office to understand the significance of jurisdiction. Bringing in the CHP at this stage would be equivalent to Moore admitting early defeat.
While the chief and SJPD are limited in what they can do due to budgetary restraints, it’s obvious that a new strategy is being devised by SJPD as all available resources are directed to patrol. But already there are concerns that SJPD officers are turning their backs as a result of less pay and benefits and greater risk on the job.
On Monday, pastors Sonny and Linda Lara will hold a prayer vigil at 7pm at City Hall outside by the Rotunda. Families of the recent homicides in San Jose will be there, and Chief Moore will also speak.