San Jose policymakers have put out the welcome mat for criminals of all types. Their war on cops has had the unintended consequence of spiking crime and leaving city residents frustrated and defenseless.
Adding insult to injury, city policy makes it clear to residents and criminals alike that there will be little or no consequence for unlawful behavior that does not rise to a “priority” level. In other words, if there is no imminent threat, the police are not showing up. “Please file a report for insurance purposes by coming down to the station, otherwise, will not be getting back to you.”
As a recent victim of crime—my iPad was stolen—in which police were tracking the thief, I was told: “As long as they don’t go to San Jose, we can get them.” As jurisdictions change in the Valley, so does the level of law enforcement service. When the late Steve Jobs’ house was burglarized, it was Apple’s security, not public funded agencies that cracked the case. Most people don’t have a private security force. (Editor’s note: Especially dead people.)
It is common knowledge that property crimes are given a low priority in the current enforcement system in San Jose. The elimination of 400 cops on the street, exacerbated by disrespected veterans leaving the force for other agencies, is a major part of the problem.
San Jose once boasted that it was the safest big city in America. No more.
Mayor Chuck Reed, in his zeal for a political win against public pensions, has used his office to make police officers and firefighters the poster children for the bad decisions of City Managers and elected officials in the past. To the Mayor’s credit, he admits to being a party to those previous bad decisions. The problem is that the consequences of those decisions fall on those who are blameless, but who have been vilified for political purposes.
The consequences of the policies have left the city divided, with poor morale and now, admittedly, vulnerable. The problem stems from a failure to communicate, a failure to get agreement, a failure to equally share in the sacrifice and a calculation that making the victims of the Bush recession the enemy would be good politics. Most of all, it is a breakdown in the trust of San Jose leadership and those who must carry out the policy of those leaders.
Mayor Reed is fond of saying he is willing to make the “tough” decisions. But leadership is more than making decisions; it’s about keeping those who are affected by those decisions with you.
Nothing could be more telling than the recent traffic ticket the Mayor received. No Mayor in the past would ever receive a citation for “failing to signal” on a turn. As long as a Mayor isn’t drunk or driving recklessly, they get a warning—not a ticket.
But the alienation of city workers at all levels has become personal. The Mayor now needs those people he has offended to help him and his city come up with a workable plan to protect the citizens and businesses of San Jose.
He and high-level city administrators must begin to heal the rift created by the politics. At the same time, they must also come up with a workable plan that addresses the safety and concerns of San Jose residents.
In the final analysis, it will be the results of this initiative—not pension reform—that will be the real legacy of this Mayor. And until it is accomplished, criminals will continue to prey on an unprotected public. The once proud safest big city in America will remain a lawless and open city, reminiscent of the old West.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.