San Jose saw a marked increase in violent crimes in 2017, according to preliminary data that the city’s police department expects to finalize later this month.
Authorities say the city of a million-plus people was on pace for a 7.2 percent uptick in overall violent offenses, which include homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults, but perhaps the most troubling statistic was an alarming 42 percent spike in crimes committed by juveniles.
San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia told San Jose Inside last month that he doesn’t yet know what’s driving the surge in juvenile crime, but it doesn’t appear to be gang related.
According to the Mercury News, other major Bay Area cities, namely Oakland and San Francisco, saw a decline in violent crime rates. But other local municipalities—Fremont, Palo Alto, Berkeley and Hayward—each reported a jump from 2016, when San Jose recorded a 14.3 percent increase.
That puts San Jose on pace with Los Angeles, another city that’s grappling with a violent crime trend well ahead of the national 4 percent increase cited by the FBI.
It should be noted, however, that the recent uptick in violent offenses follows a dramatic decades-long drop in serious crimes in the U.S. Per the FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics, the national violent crime rate has fallen by more than half since the 1990s.
Juvenile arrests have followed a similar pattern both nationwide and in California, which saw a sharp decline in youth detentions over the past decade, according to recently published data from the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
Chief Garcia has been lauded by some as a champion of progressive policing, but he told San Jose Inside that he’s worried some criminal justice reforms have gone too far. Lighter sentencing and the campaign to slash pretrial detention have put violent offenders back on the streets, he said.
Local police have been struggling to adapt to statewide reforms such as Proposition 47, the 2014 ballot measure that downgraded certain drug and theft crimes to misdemeanors; Proposition 57, which slashed the California prison population; and Proposition 64, which legalized adult-use cannabis.
Last month, Garcia pushed back against new regional guidelines that raised the threshold to jail suspects. In a move to decrease the number of people locked up for minor offenses, Santa Clara County upped the amount arrest warrants must be to jail someone from $5,000 to $15,000. Though violent misdemeanors and gun-related crimes are exempt from the policy, Garcia said the policy undermines his officers’ discretion.
The county’s new arrest threshold is part of a multi-faceted reform effort that includes moving away from for-profit bail bonds toward more pretrial community supervision. What Garcia said he would like to see more of, however, is rehabilitation for people who are caught up in the criminal justice system.
“That’s something we’re going to have to grapple with as a society moving forward,” he told San Jose Inside. “You can’t keep pushing the problem back on the community and local law enforcement.”