Crime in San Jose

Despite the recent violent crimes, we are still a very safe city. However, I think it is fair to ask if we are safe enough.  Many would say “no.” When three murders happen over one night; when four knifings happen within a couple of blocks downtown; when more and more people are concerned about the use of police resources in central San Jose; when our murders in one weekend approach Oakland’s, then it is time to carefully monitor the crime situation and make the correct assessments.

We are on a pace to exceed the 33 homicides of last year. Oakland already has 90 this year and San Jose has a “mere” 26, unless it is a family member or friend, and then it is everything—the universe! 

There has been an ongoing debate on the council about the number of officers to be hired. The question is intimately connected to the more troubling question about how much money will be paid to the police—there is an increasingly acrimonious debate about this subject and the impending binding arbitration between the mayor and the police union—and how large a force we can afford. Of course, the ace in the hole for the police union is the “independent” arbitrator that is part of our city charter and can award a contract that theoretically could shut libraries and abandon parks. For the record, I opposed it, along with Janet Gray Hayes, as every other council person supported it. It is a sad commentary on the abdication of responsibility by elected officials and the surrender to an unelected, unaccountable lawyer type. It is sad and unfortunate, but true.

The violence this past weekend was tragically almost on par with Oakland, the Bay Area’s most crime-plagued city. In July, Oakland gained national attention after a grisly spate of seven killings in two days. We are not there and I trust never will be, but we must be concerned.

I have spoken to many officers on the streets in the past few days and they express two strands of opinion. First, they are happy and proud of their department and pleased with the professionalism that has cleared so many cases and apprehended the shooters and stabbers of the latest outrages. But they are very concerned with the spiral of violence in the city and the coarsening of our neighborhoods and the disproportionate number of violent crimes in some of the poorest neighborhoods downtown and in the east side and south San Jose. This worries them and it should worry all of us.

There is a fundamental reckoning due on how we police our city and how we apportion resources in an increasingly difficult financial climate. We must make the best decisions now—calmly, but with a full knowledge that we are on an increasingly slippery slope.


  1. Tom,

    You’re right about the fact that arbitration is a bad deal for the city.  They always lose. They’re record is comparable to those of Major League Baseball owners—that is BAD.

    You’re also right that we are on a slippery slope.  Crime is increasing while Reed and company offer band aid solutions.  What would you do if you were mayor again?

  2. thanks, tom for the prompt for an honest conversation about violent crime in s.j. What trends do the police see to account for the rise? And is it really true that there’s a disproportionate rise in south/east san jose? Is that a sign of changing economic conditions, gang membership, or something else?

  3. Yo!!

    I heard the Chief on the radio today say that the crime increase was due to no more than a hot night and alcohol.  No need for alarm.

    And how is it when your boy Ron was Mayor, crime was at an all time low.  But you give him no love??

  4. Tom,

    Isn’t binding arbitration the option given to a police or fire department since they can not legally strike? An independent arbitrator has to be agreed upon by both sides, then looks at similar salaries and benefits in the area, takes San Jose’s finances into consideration, and comes up with a compromise which is legally binding to both sides. Why is the city so strapped to get additional officers when we have been perpetually hundreds of officers short for so many years? Where did all that money not spent on officers go all these years? I don’t like these comparisons of “even though our crime rate is up we are still relatively safe compared to Oakland”. Sounds like throwing in the towel as it could always be worse.

  5. #3

    I heard the Chief on the radio today say that the crime increase was due to no more than a hot night and alcohol.  No need for alarm.

    The problem here is the hot weather affected all areas equally.  Likewise, over consumption of alcohol is widespread throughout the area.

    Yet, for some reason, East San Jose experiences a disproportionate amount of aggressive, anti-social behavior, even in the winter when it is not as hot.  So, it makes sense to ask if there might not be some other factor underlying the poor school performance, and the increased aggressive, anti-social behavior in that part of the city.

  6. While violence is never something to be taken lightly, one rise over a short period is no cause for alarm, relatively speaking. Anyone who’s taken a basic statistics course should know. If we go along stretch without a murder, will the news be there? I hope so, otherwise it’s all just sensationalism.

  7. Steve – yes, binding arbitration is ‘supposed’ to work fairly: it does not!  The un-elected guy who nobody knows looks at the city budget and decides. That’s the job of the Mayor and Council – they are accountable; they can be tossed from office. As far as no strikes for police, they have utilized a “blue flu” for some time in many places – it happened to me in San Jose. I am in favor of the highest pay for cops who do so much for us, but the elected ones should decide. And the local POA is becoming too much like the State Prison Guards in trying to buy the mayor and council. It is not good for the city – or our citizens. And lastly, Oakland should not be the standard for our safely, for sure.  TMcE

  8. Mr. McEnery,
    When two groups can’t meet eye to eye, binding arbitration seems like the right direction to go.  However, you believe it does not work fairly.  How come?  Didn’t the fire department go to binding arbitration?  In your opinion was that fair? 

    I agree that we elected a Mayor and Council and they should be making correct decisions on our behalf. But I’m not sure they always do that (cough…garbage city hall..grand prix…cough).  Then again, the voters expressed themselves on that issue didn’t they.

    When was the last time we saw a “Blue Flu”?  Have we seen a “Blue flu” since this binding arbitrator policy started?  Also can you give an example of how the POA is trying to buy the mayor and council? That comment sounds interesting.

    Finally, I just want to add my two cents.  I believe that because of these budget cuts and policy changes (city and county), we will see it get worse before it gets better and the two victims will be the good citizens of San Jose and the good men and women of the law enforcement community

  9. Facts: SJPD is now one from the lowest paid police agency in this county. We fare no better compared with SFPD or OPD. We have the worst retirement in the state as one of the few agencies foolish enough to not join PERS. Staffing levels reflect decades of no growth and officers are overworked. Morale os low and officers are transferring to other agencies that appreciate their police officers. The city of SJ wants the cake (safe city titles) and to eat it too (industry-bargain officers). Officers see the writing on the wall. The best new candidates now know,…avoid SJPD. Sorry but true.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *