Who Authorized SJPD’s Change in Gang Crime Stats?

San Jose Councilman Ash Kalra says the city’s got some explaining to do about its police stats gaffe. In a memo to the Rules and Open Government Committee, which meets Wednesday, Kalra calls for the issue to come before the City Council.

San Jose Police Chief Larry Esquivel apologized over the weekend for misleading the public about a supposed drop in gang crime. As reported earlier, the 42 percent dip in the number of gang killings this year wasn’t accurate. Rather, the numbers reflected a change in the way SJPD classifies gang-related homicides. Before Esquivel’s apology, Police Information Officer Albert Morales took blame in an interview with San Jose Inside.

So who exactly who ordered the change in reporting, and who pushed to tout the numbers in public?

In an attempt to find out who actually authorized the change in gang crime classification, NBC Bay Area submitted a public records act (PRA) request to the city. The TV station asked for all emails to and from people listed below with the following words, names or titles: gang, crime stats, crime statistics, Lugo, Justin Watkins, Julie Putnam, Jenna Susko, KNTV, NBC and Channel 11.

The request could be voluminous, as it spans from May 1 to Nov. 14. Below are the names of people whose emails were targeted for the above-mentioned keywords:

• Lt. Mike Kihmm
• Larry Esquivel
• Heather Randol
• Albert Morales
• Chuck Reed
• Sam Liccardo
• Michelle McGurk
• David Vossbrink
• Mario Maciel
• All employees assigned to the SJPD Homicide Unit

City leaders boasted about the decline in crime at town hall meetings and in council newsletters, crediting Esquivel’s gang suppression efforts for making the city safer despite its understaffed police force. But now there’s no telling, as Kalra points out in his memo.

“In recent years, the city of San Jose has seen a steady rise in crime throughout the city, including an increased number of incidents categorized as gang crimes,” he wrote. “Due to an unprecedented number of police officers leaving the city, the police department has been forced to implement strategies to combat gang crime in a manner that is targeted and resource intensive.”

Also, Kalra noted, the timing of the drop-in-crime announcement was a little suspect, considering Esquivel was vying for a promotion to permanent police chief.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for November 20, 2013:

• Vice Mayor Madison Nguyen wants to re-open the city’s Office on Aging, which closed five years ago, a casualty of economic recession. The city needs the service to educate the elderly about the dangers of abuse and fraud, she wrote.

• The city should eliminate fees and permit requirements for taxis that drop off passengers at Mineta San Jose International Airport, according to Mayor Chuck Reed and councilmembers Sam Liccardo and Don Rocha. The charges drive away business and hurt the airport, the three argued in a memo.

• Expanding the Oak Hill Cemetery could endanger some burrowing owls.

• The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce asked the city to delay for three months a decision to enact an affordable housing fee to give the public a reasonable time to review the plan.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.7611

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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