San Jose Police, CHP Defend Decisions to Divert Traffic During Cinco de Mayo

San Jose police officials today defended their “zero tolerance” policies enforced over the Cinco De Mayo weekend, saying that the Police Department’s “proactive policing” in place for 20 years continues to boost public safety and minimize criminal activity.

The statement released by Police Chief Anthony Mata included crime statistics that identified 115 arrests, 407 citations and seizure of six firearms associated with patrols May 5-7.

The report followed complaints from two local legislators that decisions by Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol to close multiple highway off-ramps in San Jose during the weekend were “racist targeting” and unnecessary violations of citizens’ constitutional rights.

Sen. Dave Cortese, D-San Jose, and Assemblymember Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, said in a statement: “Normal traffic controls are one thing -- but shutting down major highway access on the pretense of fear of multicultural celebrations of Cinco de Mayo is racist targeting, and blatantly unconstitutional.”

Caltrans and the CHP said the Friday through Sunday morning closures were necessary to shut down the ramps for traffic control and public safety during an organized Cinco De Mayo march through downtown San Jose.

The ramps were northbound and southbound U.S. Highway 101 at McKee Road, Julian Street, Santa Clara, and Story Road; southbound Interstate Highway 280 at McLaughlin Avenue; northbound I-280 at 10th and 11th Streets; and northbound state Highway 87 at Auzerais Avenue, Santa Clara Avenue, Julian Street and Taylor Street.

Some city streets also were closed.

Patrol units last weekend were deployed “to minimize traffic gridlock, allow emergency vehicles access to roadways and proactively ensure public safety,” said the police report released today. “City street diversions only occurred when it was deemed necessary to lessen the impact of vehicular traffic in areas already impacted with significant pedestrian and vehicular congestion.”

“Due to ongoing staffing shortages to the department, operational plans also included leveraging the use of road closures and other traffic diversions to limit further traffic congestion and to prevent delays in response times to address any criminal activity. Similar closures and diversions have been utilized during other major events that draw large crowds throughout the city. The purpose is to ensure traffic continues to flow and community members can celebrate these events safely.”

The Police Department report said they have been closing streets and diverting traffic to manage Cinco de Mayo traffic and crowd control for nearly 20 years.

“Although the deployment of these measures are not new, the department recognizes the need to communicate these closures earlier,” the report said. “In the future, we will strive to announce any planned responses to large scale events with enough advanced notice to ensure that the community and our elected officials have adequate notice to prepare accordingly.”

“As the Cinco de Mayo celebration comes to a close, many events were peaceful and a majority of community members and visitors lawfully enjoyed the cultural celebration that has been a San José tradition for decades,” said the police department report.

“We proudly embrace and understand the significance this celebration holds for residents and visitors, and plan accordingly to ensure everyone can enjoy it safely. As in years past, the department took preventative measures to ensure the community could celebrate safely. In doing so, SJPD also employed zero tolerance for criminal behavior.”

During what it said were normal operations, city police units “observed several misdemeanors, felonies, reckless driving incidents, sideshow activity, and other quality of life crimes that required enforcement action in order to keep the peace” over the Cinco de Mayor weekend..

From May 5-7, police statistics included:

  • Total Calls for Service: 2,642
  • Total Arrests:  115
  • Total Vehicle Impounds: 30
  • Total Citations Issued: 407
  • Total Reports Taken: 352
  • Total Firearms seized: 6

“Historically, the Police Department has gotten numerous requests from residents and business owners concerned about unsanctioned gatherings and activities that would occur when people would arrive in San José from outside the city during Cinco de Mayo weekend,” the police reported. “In past years, the Police Department took a reactive approach to gridlock traffic, violent crimes, and vandalism by responding to calls for service and taking enforcement action where appropriate. This approach actually resulted in large numbers of arrests and citations, and did little to alleviate the concerns of residents and business owners.”

Beginning about 20 years ago, city police began a more proactive approach “to reducing gridlock and crime that relied on strategic traffic diversions as a key component. These traffic diversions are only employed when traffic gridlock is starting to occur, and/or when crowds start to become large and unruly enough that they present a public safety issue.”

“In the years since this strategy has been utilized, we have seen a reduction in violent crime and gridlock traffic,” the report concluded.

“San José residents can more easily move about and celebrate traditional Cinco de Mayo events, which is the main purpose of our efforts. In no way is our response to Cinco de Mayo intended or designed to inhibit anyone’s ability to celebrate the holiday. It is simply a proactive approach to increase public safety around an event that has historically drawn large crowds from outside the city, many of whom did not celebrate lawfully.”

Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. Good Job SJPD and CHP!

    Cortese should be retired from public office with extreme prejudice.

    I’m sorry to see Ash take such a stand against SJPD and the CHP.

    Next year, add Immigration, Customs and Enforcement into the mix and watch Cortese wet himself.

    David S. Wall

  2. How do Cortese and Kalra feel about 10 pm curfews to combat a virus (on the apparent rationale it is more deadly after dark)? Because they were silent when we were subjected to that tyranny (and other absurdities) during Covid. Don’t have to shut down intersections when people are not allowed to leave their homes at night.

  3. They’ve been doing this forever. One 5/5, I had dinner at Gordon-Biersh (now closed). I lived at 2nd and Bassett at the time, and it would normally be an easy walk up 2nd, but because of the 5/5 nightmare, I was forced to walk miles out of the way.

    Nothing changes.

  4. San Jose’s past Cinco De Mayo’s have been one of the largest in the nation. The parades and closing of the downtown area was due to foot traffic and booths selling beer and food as well as arts and crafts. Many Stages for Bands would block downtown streets. This was when the GI Forum ran the event. San Jose Police would charge 700K or more for added presence and security but all in all it was the organization’s largest money maker.

    Those past events were mostly celebratory with little friction in the gang community. The county had parole officers clearly identified as to who they were and as well it was a time for the San Jose Mounted Police to show off their horses and riding skills as they maneuvered their horses amongst the throngs of people in attendance. Also many undercover officers from SJPD were on hand.

    The Hispanic Community really came together during those events and I personally remember those very warm days in early May where the San Jose community at large came together to celebrate a part of its roots, as we were once a part of Mexico and many families of Mexican origin were here long before the Anglo.

    As a native Californian I celebrate with the various cultures drawn to our City and State looking for prosperity and a genuine feeling of belonging to the community. Let’s not go backwards in our City when we had Sunset Laws and the like to keep out people of color. Let’s celebrate our differences rather than let them divide us.

    I have never seen Closures during St. Patrick’s Day or the Lunar New Year celebrations or even during Music in The Park or much less the Jazz Festival.

    Why then only on Cinco De Mayo? Why is the Hispanic community left with this stigma of not being treated fairly? Perhaps our new mayor needs to mingle more with the other communities in the City to be a true leader amongst his constituents. When you are walled off in largely White communities most of your life you tend to be afraid of those with different traditions and customs.

    Let’s not be that kind of City. Get out and celebrate those differences and enjoy being around those that may be somewhat different but are really the same in what they want for their families and kids. We have much more in common than what separates us, and as well we have so much to learn from one another. Let’s not let fear drive us further apart.

    All is good if you look for it, and all is bad if that is what you are looking for. I miss the old days of Celebrating with my neighbors downtown on those warm Santa Clara Valley days of early May. We have a beautiful City with beautiful people that live in it, all you have to do is take a look around and see the good. Recuerdo, positive thinking provides positive results. Take care my beautiful friends.

  5. Either cruising is legal and allowed in San Jose or it is Illegal. Our city council decided it is legal and allowed SJPD needs to acknowledge that fact and in partnership with the community provide a safe place to do so. OR the city council needs to vote to make cruising illegal again. SJPD creating their own city policy is not allowed nor should be tolerated. Looking at their actions over the last weekend, that is what the did.

  6. Great job SJPD! Keep it up but this year write traffic tickets and arrest hooligans all year round.

  7. I look at the stats, notably the arrests and citations, and wonder how the pro-crime Dem politicians really can take the side of those earning the arrests and citations instead of the police. That’s California and other woke sites for us now, though. As a native, I’m now beyond angry or disgusted often to merely being disappointed to otherwise numbed regarding the state’s decline. Are those stats surprising now?

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