It’s important to acknowledge the limitations of what one person, policy, or body can do to reduce crime because crime is caused by a wide variety of sociological factors. Thus it is difficult to say for certain what increases or decreases crime. Much like addressing the housing crisis, addressing public safety involves a variety of solutions working together. One of the ways I want to address public safety is by following what the data tells us and spending taxpayer dollars as cost-effectively as possible.
Fill Officer Vacancies
Hire More Community Service Officers
Strengthen Mental Health Services
Fill Officer Vacancies: Hiring more police officers by filling vacancies will cut down on the number of officers being asked or required to work overtime, reducing the City’s costs without reducing the number of officers. Officers work long, grueling hours, so they may welcome less overtime that may tax their long-term stamina and morale.
Hire More Community Service Officers: Community Service Officers (CSOs) work in the Police Department, wear light blue uniforms, and drive marked cars. But they do not carry guns. CSOs are crucial to providing San José residents with public safety services. They build trust with the community by patrolling neighborhoods, responding to non-emergency calls, writing reports, and investigating crimes. Benefits to expanding San Jose’s CSO program include:
- Allowing sworn police officers to focus on major emergencies like when a crime is in progress, weapons are involved, or other highest priority calls.
- Reducing the backlog of non-emergency issues needing attention.
- CSOs are less expensive to the City than police and could help avoid expensive overtime for police.
- According to SJPD, 10-15% of CSOs become police officers eventually, so it’s a great way to recruit to our understaffed police department.
To further beef up our CSO program, I recommend San José:
- Augment police officers with more CSOs during special events.
- Explore CSOs taking over traffic enforcement from DOT.
- Increase CSOs patrolling streets on foot.
- Deploy more CSOs to patrol along city trails.
- Prioritize investigations by CSOs, including any backlog of property crimes.
Strengthen Mental Health Services: Police officers are asked to be all things to all people these days, doing everything from responding to crimes, writing reports, clearing homeless encampments, and navigating mental health breakdowns of community members (the number of mental health-related calls in San José rose 40% in seven years). To support our police in the distinct public safety needs we have, I support the following reforms:
- Integrate mental health professionals into the general 911 system, allowing people to receive immediate services for critical mental health emergencies
- Deploy mental health professionals and those with lived experience being homeless (when appropriate and safe) alongside or instead of officers to not only reduce the number of officers using deadly force on those who might have a severe mental illness or be intoxicated, but also to ensure they receive mental health services.
- Having worked for three years for the County of Santa Clara, I will leverage the relationships I built there to build a stronger collaboration between the County and the City on these programs.
- Include nonprofits that serve Domestic Violence survivors (like YWCA) to assess the risk to victims and offer resources and part of police responses to Domestic Violence calls on-site.
- Embed mental health professionals from nonprofits inside the City of San José community centers and libraries.