We all rely on public safety as the foundation that enables us to live together in a community. My plan for public safety includes smart, fiscally responsible, community-centered strategies to ensure our streets and neighborhoods are safe.
Priority 2: Safer Streets & Smarter Approaches to Crime and Public Safety
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.
Ensure Vibrant, Mixed-Use Neighborhoods
Remove Cars from Trails
Smarter Street Design
No Rogue Vehicles
Camera Footage to Fine Speeding Cars or Catch Criminals
Ensure Vibrant, Mixed-Use Neighborhoods: Crimes are often about a moment of opportunism when no one is around at a given moment. Building mixed-use neighborhoods means bringing homes closer to businesses, offices, and green spaces. This means there are always more neighbors, workers, shop owners, and customers around to watch out for each other. These types of neighborhoods can also better protect bicyclists and pedestrians while creating a vibrant sense of place. A city is safest when there are more good guys with “eyes on the street” than bad guys. As I have done as an advocate through Catalyze SV for many years, I will consistently urge that new developments in District 6 and citywide be designed with a mix of uses to keep our neighborhoods lively and safe.
Remove Cars from Trails: I’ve spoken to countless residents of all backgrounds who no longer feel safe bicycling, walking, or running on our fantastic trail system. One reason is the number of people living along our trails, as stated in my Priority 1, Pillar 5 regarding sanctioned encampments. The other is the presence of cars on trails. Cars belong on roads, not trails. I will propose the City pass a zero-tolerance policy for any unauthorized vehicles along our trail system. Any car that is stationary on a city trail will be moved to a designated area within 15 minutes or towed to a safe parking location.
Smarter Street Design: The way we design streets has a direct impact on our ability to protect the most vulnerable in our community, including pedestrians, bikers, women, children, the homeless, people of color, mentally unwell people, disabled people, and anyone at night. Our neighbors deserve to walk the streets and use public transportation without fearing violence from preying criminals or out-of-control cars. I propose the following to make streets safer:
- Streets that have enough bright lighting at night
Erecting more traffic calming measures on city streets to reduce speeding, such as
- Speed humps or bumps on residential streets where speeding occurs
- Roundabouts (traffic circles) to calm dangerous intersections
- Flashing crosswalks to protect pedestrians, especially at night
- Protected intersections for the safety of bicyclists
- Raised bike lanes like Santa Clara County is implementing along Lawrence Expressway.
- Speed up implementation that allows pedestrians to get a head start crossing through an intersection (also known as “leading pedestrian interval”).
No Rogue Vehicles: If you’re like me, you get distracted and annoyed – not to mention you can’t hear anything else because of the excessive noise – when a loud car with its muffler removed or minimized whizzes by. Excessive noise can be bad for our health and our environment. Even worse: how unsafe we feel when we’re walking or biking and come to an intersection where we can’t make eye contact with a driver because their entire front windows are shaded black. In both cases, I propose San José pass and enforce laws so that law enforcement and code enforcement can issue tickets to both the drivers who outfit their vehicles with these unsafe, unhealthy modifications, as well as the businesses who alter them.
Camera Footage to Fine Speeding Cars or Catch Criminals: I support the recent deployment of cameras along public roads in San José to make our streets safer. If promising results hold, I welcome additional cameras across our city. Too often, speeding vehicles lead to the deaths of people walking and biking. We know the most dangerous streets where these deaths are most likely to occur. So I support the recent deployment of cameras that snap photos of drivers speeding and fine them, especially since such cameras have been found to reduce speeding by 73% in one city where they are deployed. I also support the recent deployment of automatic license plate readers, which the San José Police Department cites as aiding them in catching those who steal cars and commit other crimes.
We want high levels of trust between the community and the police. Public confidence in the police has dropped, perhaps caused partially by rare yet high-profile incidents of police misconduct. As President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing notes, an effective police force relies on trust from the community, and without it, police have a more difficult time addressing crime. Diminished trust in the police may also be contributing to the challenges San José is having recruiting new officers.
Zero Tolerance Corruption Policy
Law Enforcement Reforms
Zero Tolerance Corruption Policy: ALL public servants should be held to the highest ethical standards possible. No public servant should be exempt from discipline if they act unethically or violate the law. Officers who act unethically by violating the law or abusing their power must be reprimanded, demoted, or removed from their roles. While balancing employees’ right to confidentiality, the public also has a right to know if its public servants act unethically. I’m grateful San José Police Chief Mata is holding officers accountable and striving for an anti-racist police department.
Law Enforcement Reforms: Police reforms can help provide better services to taxpayers and ensure everyone in San José feels safe. Many experts have shared recommendations on what San José can do better. The City Council needs to reprioritize these issues. I suggest a March 2025 City Council Study Session on Reimagining Public Safety to draw greater attention to possible reforms the city can make. With robust input from our community and our police force, we should revisit these recommendations to determine which ones to implement. Here are some ideas for reform I endorse:
- Regular training for officers on race, domestic violence, mental health, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity to ensure our police are continually aware of the diverse and changing needs of San José’s community.
- Establish a city fund that convicted criminals who commit property crimes will pay into as part of their sentencing, as a way to provide restitution to victims of property crimes.
- Strengthen the scope of the Independent Police Auditor (IPA) to enable the office to access records to initiate and conduct independent investigations of police officers because it can improve trust between the public and the police. I anticipate this will also reduce complaints against officers. Any proposed changes made to the role of the IPA need to be made in close consultation with the San José Police Department and the San José Police Officers Association.
- Release body camera footage within 7 days if there is an officer-involved shooting or beating to maximize transparency.
- Increased use of cameras in public places and in front of homes to deter crime and capture information/evidence of criminal activity.
- Increase efforts to recruit more women, Latinos, Asians, and LGBTQ folks to the Police and Fire Departments to diversify law enforcement so it represents the community it serves.