How to Reduce Crime While Not Talking about Crime

The San Jose mayor’s race unfortunately has been distilled down to a contentious debate on public safety, crime and pension reform. These are certainly relevant issues to debate, but the information surrounding them is skewed. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent on campaign mailers and the focus of these pieces will be almost entirely on the three aforementioned issues—while doing nothing to educate the electorate about other critical problems and potential solutions.

The facts presented in a San Jose Mercury News editorial endorsing Sam Liccardo for mayor indicate that, according to the San Jose Police Department's own numbers, violent crime was down in 2013 compared to 2012 and even 2008 levels. Burglaries are up this year but dropped some in 2013. The FBI statistics available indicate higher crime numbers in San Jose in the 1990s than today.

As an educator and trustee, I focus my attention on our youth: birth to college. Our next mayor should use his bully pulpit to help this segment of our population. Our children represent the city’s future. If we educate children well, with a path toward college or technical degree/certificate, then there will be a significant reduction in crime, unemployment and poverty. A more prosperous city can hire more police, keep all streets free of potholes, continue BART through downtown, house the homeless and pay pension costs.

Fortunately, I read Liccardo's book, which gives me hope that after the election he will put together some strategic initiatives to address education deficiencies.

"Our residents' future prosperity hinges on our collective focus on college attainment,” he writes. “Inaction condemns another generation to low-skill jobs, widening San Jose's already-yawning gap between rich and poor, and much of the gap remains color-coded by race."

Let me add that our demographics are rapidly changing to an increasing number of citizens of color. Advocacy to bring districts and charters together for collaboration on behalf of children has had little impact. The reality is that public education stakeholders—traditional schools and charter schools—are still at odds. However, a strong mayor can improve the situation.

Liccardo writes, "We need a mayor who can bring both sides together to help public districts and public charters flourish in the same city." Amen to that!

He also articulately addresses quality after-school programs and encourages people to volunteer for reading programs schools.

Liccardo says “we can secure far more resources working together with our 19 school districts than we can working separately."

But there is one glaring hole in Liccardo's education plan and that is universal preschool. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio got it right. He campaigned aggressively on the issue and won with overwhelming support. His plank is now being implemented and it will make New York City a beacon for other cities.

The Santa Clara County Office of Education, with several strategic stakeholders, has been meeting to discuss a Strong Start initiative that would provide high quality preschool for all 4 year olds. San Jose's next mayor must begin to lay a foundation for a more competitive and prosperous future, one with significantly reduced crime.

In the remaining debates, the education issues mentioned in this column should be a topic for both candidates to discuss. Education is the key to our future. All other issues pale in comparison.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.


  1. The other glaring hole you intentionally did not mention in Liccardo’s grand plan is that City of San Jose elected officials having nothing to do with education, that is the job of each school districts ELECTED school board. Are you advocating that local school boards relinquish their jobs/responsibilities to San Jose elected officials? You also forget to mention that Liccardo has a financial stake in charter schools as his wife is a highly paid representative of Rocketship who’s educational track record is suspect at best.

  2. “according to the San Jose Police Department’s own numbers, violent crime was down in 2013 compared to 2012”

    How convenient to use those numbers when the same data set shows violent crime up in 2014 compared to Jan-Jun 2013.

    Someone who cherry picks data has no business being a trustee for the office of education.

  3. Mr. DiSalvo,

    You are clearly out of touch with the residents of San Jose and the current issues facing this city. If you’re going to crunch the numbers on statistics, lets do a quick reality check here…

    2009 was pre Measure V&W, arguably the last year before morale plummeted and the exodus began.

    Total Felony Arrests in 2009: 9,744
    Total Felony Arrests in 2013: 7,380

    Total Misdemeanor Arrests in 2009: 18,969
    Total Misdemeanor Arrests in 2013: 10,696

    A net reduction of 10,637 arrests. Why the big deal? This illustrates the shift to the department becoming much more reactive due to a lack of staffing in patrol.

    In particular, violent crime is often given more precedence than property crime as a barometer for determining safety. In reality, violent crime is rarely a random act (as much of the public seems to fear), and thus it does not see the same increases due to a lack of policing as crimes of opportunity. Even though this is true, with the exception of Aggravated Assault, 3 of the 4 major violent crime categories in the UCR rose from 2009 to 2013.

    Let’s take a look at what many consider a more accurate measure of safety, property crime.

    Burglaries per 100,000 residents –
    2009: 371 vs 2013: 525

    Larceny per 100,00 residents –
    2009: 1354 vs 2013: 1260

    Vehicle Theft per 100,000 residents –
    2009: 534 vs 2013: 805

    With the exception of a small drop in larceny, (why steal from Wal-Mart and get caught when you can knock off houses?) these results show a very clear picture and truly illustrate the public safety crisis this city is facing.

    Not to mention Joe, – you see the prostitutes on N. 1st & So. 1st? You see all of the vagrants & crack dealers all over the “lively and vibrant core”? You see all of the graffiti popping up everywhere?

    Crime is down though.. Right?

    • And Dave Cortese is without sin, except for the fact he voted 7 times to increase pension payouts without identifying how to pay for them.

  4. Sam says ///////Liccardo writes, “We need a mayor who can bring both sides together to help public districts and public charters flourish in the same city.” Amen to that!

    Well sam has failed miserably at bringing both sides together when he was a council person. In fact he has alienated the other side that the cops think he is a liar, and cannot be trusted. So according to Sam he will be unable to bring both sides together.

  5. Sam Liccardo once said the solution to the budget issues was to give all City employees a pink slip and start hiring from scratch. This doesn’t sound like someone who can bring two sides together. Hundreds of police officers have left the City since the Measure B vote and city paycuts and who can blame them? Other govt agencies are paying 1000’s to 10,000’s more and asking their employees to pay less into their retirement and benefits. Who wouldn’t leave under those circumstances? Liccardo was riding Mayor Reed’s coattails during this whole fiasco and it’s not going to get any better with Liccardo in office. It’s no coincidence that crime shot up as the police force got smaller.

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