Protecting the Horse Mounted Unit

By Denelle Fedor

The San Jose Mounted Unit is an integral component of the San Jose Police Department.

The unit was created in 1986 by Police Chief Joe McNamara, who came from the biggest city in the United States; New York City. Chief McNamara served 15 years as San Jose’s Police Chief. He is currently a research fellow at the Hoover Institute, has authored numerous books on policing and is regarded and recognized nationally as an expert in criminal justice, police technology and management systems, crime prevention, and international drug policies.

With Chief McNamara’s experience in working in a big city, not a small town, he understood the importance that a horse patrol would bring to San Jose. As a result, he created a task force of private citizens to help establish the unit. This group raised $70,000 to help pay the costs, making the unit one of, if not, the first public-private partnerships in
San Jose.

Although every Police Chief since McNamara has supported horse patrol, city management proposed eliminating police officers on horseback this year by stating the city could save $1.4 million if the unit was cut. However, management’s million dollar number was misleading. The actual cost of the unit is approximately $230, 000. The1.4 million is the compensation for the eight officers who patrol on horseback. Therefore, the only way management could save 1.4 million is if they eliminated police positions, which has nothing to do with mounted unit. They should have stated they were eliminating police positions instead of using the mounted unit as a ploy.

Mayor Chuck Reed kept his commitment to public safety and specifically to horse patrol by directing management to enter into an agreement with the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit who agreed to pay the cost of the unit for the 2010-2011 budget year, making the unit a cost-effective public-private partnership.

As a result, the Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit will be embarking on a campaign called “Pony Up, San Jose” which will officially launch in August 2009. With a million people in San Jose, all we need is $1 from two hundred and thirty thousand of them. Spread the word and send your dollars to Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit PO Box 7408 San Jose, CA 95150-6511 or visit our website.

In my opinion, San Jose has moved away from community policing since McNamara’s retirement. However, under Chief Davis, San Jose is trying to bring it back. The new Captain for the Downtown nightlife served as a mounted unit officer. Perhaps the unit will be utilized more in the Downtown. We can only hope.

When you have former Vice Mayors Cindy Chavez and Pat Dando along with Tom Martin, General Manager for Santana Row, Scott Knies, President of the Downtown Association, and thousands of business owners and residents in San Jose who support the mounted unit, then perhaps these voices should serve as testament that the Mounted Unit is important and should remain intact.

Denelle Fedor is President & Founder of the non-profit Friends of the San Jose Mounted Unit (www.sjmu.org). She has worked for Councilmembers Pat Dando and Ken Yeager and currently serves as Chief of Staff to Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio.

Bringing Silicon Valley Innovation to Sacramento

By Chris Kelly

When I was growing up in San Jose, it was the safest big city in America. I know that the SJPOA is dedicated to restoring that designation, and that you’re going to need lots of help in these tough times. I promise to stand with you when I’m Attorney General.

We need innovative solutions from Sacramento to get out of the $26 billion budget mess, but instead we get schemes to release over 20,000 felons from state prison – not to mention the attempt to seize local government funds that may result in cuts for your department.

The prison release plan is supposed to save $1.2 billion, but that’s just accounting trickery. In fact, a Federal Bureau of Justice Statistics study finds that nearly 70% of early-released inmates are rearrested within three years, 20% of them for violent crime. That will mean more than $3 billion in increased costs from crime while causing serious harm to hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.

I've spoken to police chiefs, law enforcement groups and civic associations throughout California about the issue, and they're deeply worried about the crime wave this scheme will unleash. It will be hard enough to make San Jose a safer community in tough economic times without the problems caused by early release.

I know that we need to solve the budget crisis. But this misguided early release plan would do far more harm than good, and I need your help to stop it.

To organize against schemes like this, I’ve started the cause Protect California Communities on Facebook, which is already helping avoid the worst forms of early release. But the plan keeps coming back. Please join me at http://www.causes.com/protectcalifornia, and follow the activism instructions to help us beat it back again.

Over the last four years, as Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy at Facebook, I’ve been working with Attorneys General from across the nation and law enforcement across the world to build a safer and more trusted Internet for our more than 250 million customers.

Working together, I know we can bring the innovation of Silicon Valley to Sacramento and develop real, honest solutions to get California moving again.

Chris Kelly is Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Global Public Policy for Facebook and a candidate for Attorney General of California. He wrote this article for Protect San Jose.

Preventing the Break-In

By Beat Cop

Part two of a three-part series

I just added a new “friend” on Facebook. I don’t know this person, but two of my friends do, so why not, right?

Of course, I forget for the moment that I’ve used this excuse to add half the friends I already have. I click “What’s on your mind?” and enter a status update for all my digital friends to enjoy. Something witty... I know, talk about the New York trip... “Beat Cop is looking forward to his trip to NYC on Monday.”

Sadly this innocent act is just an example of one of the increasing burglary opportunities we’ve seen. Yes, the criminal I just added to my “social network” reads my update as, “Beat Cop is leaving town on Monday, I can’t wait to break his window, go in his house, go through his stuff, and steal whatever looks good.”

Far fetched or not, that scenario is rearing it’s ugly head too often lately. After reading the last Beat Cop article, "Nightmare On My Street," you learned that a reduction in police staffing has led to an increase of residential burglaries in our city. This week we will look at burglary prevention. We will explore ways all of us can contribute in order to prevent burglaries from occurring as well as learn ways to catch the crooks coming into our homes. In part three we will look at ways to get the cuffs onto those who prey on residents while they are away from their homes.

Burglary is a crime that is preventable even when you are not home. Burglars are in general cowardly and lazy. Most often they look for easy targets and quick loot. After succeeding with an easy break in, a burglar will go on the prowl for the next easy target, often in the same area/neighborhood.

I used the look up calls for service in your area link on the www.protectsanjose.com and saw that there were 94 burglaries last week in San Jose, with four of them occurring in my small neighborhood alone. Here are some of the top ways to prevent burglaries in your home and your neighborhood:

1. Don’t showboat.

Leaving valuables out in your frontyard or a new flat screen TV in plain sight from the road, can unwittingly lure thieves onto your property just like a frantic bargain hunter is lured to a flea market. The thief is always out shopping for loot. Don’t make it easy for them by letting them know what you have. Dont’ leave your garage door open for extended periods of time.

2. Don’t put up the “Out for Lunch” or “On Vacation” sign.

Burglars only want to break into your home when they know you are not there. Protect yourself by creating the illusion you are home even when you are not. Leave a radio or TV on. Buy a ten dollar timer from your local hardware store and have lamps on at night when you are gone (energy efficient florescent bulbs of course). Stop mail and newspaper subscriptions while on vacation.

3. Lock your doors and windows.

I once asked a burglar why he chose the house he did. His response was, he didn’t, it chose him. After tugging on four or five doors/windows in the neighborhood he went with the one that was open. Most home breakins are more like “walkins” requiring very little force or none at all. Invest in quality deadbolts and locks. Use wood or steel dowels in sliding doors and windows. Don’t forget about upstairs windows. It’s not hard for a burglar to climb up an air conditioning unit or a left out ladder and enter your second story window. Burglars know to look under the front mat for a hide-a-key. Leaving your spare house key in common hiding places is like leaving milk and cookies out for neighborhood thieves. Lock it up.

4. Make your yard welcoming to guests not thieves.

Keep the bushes and trees trimmed near your windows. Clutter and large items offer concealment and a chance to pry a window open in privacy. Make use of motion lights and other outdoor lighting. A well maintained yard brings more friends over and keeps more crooks out.

5. Get to know your neighbors.

Knowing who belongs in your neighborhood, will help you to recognize those who don’t. Take notice of suspicious persons and note license plates and vehicle descriptions. Take a proactive approach to keeping yourself safe and let the police help keep predators out of your neighborhood. SJPD is available to help with this. Gather a group of ten neighbors and make arrangements for a crime prevention specialist to meet with your group. You can contact the SJPD crime prevention unit at (408) 277-4133 or log on to the SJPD website.

6. Use an alarm system.

A well maintained residential alarm system can make a burglar passup your house. Monitored systems are great and alert the police of a breakin when you are not home. A system that does not have a paid monitoring service can be very effective as well. Inexpensive systems are available that make that same high pitch noise as the expensive ones and scare the burglar off just the same. An alarm sign strategically placed in your yard might be all it takes to keep the crook moving along.

The reality is that some burglaries will still occur despite our best efforts made at preventing them. Taking the time to implement as many preventative measures as possible can help to keep you safe. In part three we will continue to work together to catch crooks with efforts taken before a breakin and after. Stay tuned and help San Jose Police Officers as they work to return San Jose to being the safest big city in America.

Proudly serving you,
Your Beat Cop

I Didn't Click It

By Kathleen Flynn

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis in my hands so putting on my seat belt isn’t easy. I was in the parking lot struggling to get mine on. I couldn’t so I just drove away. I was merging onto the freeway when sure enough I saw a Police Officer pulling up behind me red, white, and blue lights on, and telling me over a speaker to pull over. I knew I was in the wrong and realized I’d just have to suck it up and accept the consequences of my ignorant decision not to click it.

The Officer walked up to my window and immediately began lecturing me on how many fatalities occur everyday due to the lack of wearing a seat belt. He went into great detail about how many people would have survived had they just chosen to click it. This Officer wasn’t speaking to me in a calm way either. He was angry, disgusted, and quite honestly I was pretty irritated with him for his tone. He demanded my license and registration and huffed off to his car.

As I watched him in my rear view mirror, I began to think about what he had just told me. I began to realize he wasn’t angry so much as he was concerned about my safety. He returned to my car he gave me a ticket, and explained that he had just returned from a fatal car crash. He said he didn’t want to see that happen to me. My irritation about getting a ticket, and an attitude from him dissolved into compassion. He was only human and was probably pretty shaken up by what he had just seen.

I sincerely thanked him for caring about my safety. He looked stunned for a moment and walked away. To my surprise, he turned around and came back. He looked at me and in a soft, respectful voice asked me if I knew how to get back on the freeway. I said yes, but he followed me anyway to make sure I got back on safely.

On my drive home I reflected on how little we know about what Officers experience everyday. I began thinking about being on the parking patrol at my condo complex. Residents yelled at me when I asked them to move their car off the red curb, even though I explained the need to keep it clear in case of fire. I began to feel real compassion and gratitude toward that Officer.

So Officer if you are reading this thanks for stopping me that day. Painful hands or not, I have never gotten into the car without a seat belt since. Readers, when stopped by Police try to remember that Officer you want to get an attitude with might have just left a horrific crime, or accident. Give him/her a break because that Officer might be the one who keeps your son, daughter, or mother out of harm’s way.

To all of you Officers, thank you for your service and stay safe!

Kathleen Flynn is a professional mediator and community activist.

Technology and Officer Reports

By Ed Rast

Did you know that today, just like in 1960-70’s, many San Jose Police officers still hand write their crime reports?

San Jose has about 520 patrol officers who complete 1 or more crime reports per shift with each report taking 1 to 2 hours to complete. Potentially 1 to 4 hours (10% - 40%) of an police officer’s 10-hour shift are not available for officers to spend on patrol, crime prevention and community policing.

A report for a single drunk driving incident can take up to 4 hours for a police officer to complete because they must complete both a drunk driving crime report and an accident report.

Some police officers use their own personal computers to fill out the San Jose Crime Report (Form 2) Word document template rather than write a hand-written report, and then they print out the crime or accident report(s) since the current systems does not accept electronically submitted reports.

When each shift ends, police officers turn in their manual or personal computer printed crime reports to shift supervisors. After being reviewed, the incident, arrest, crime and accident reports are sent to the police records section where staff manually inputs the crime reports data into the current police records system’s crime and accident templates. The manual or printed crime records are then manually filed in one of the police records warehouses by the records staff

A well designed, modern, comprehensive police records management system would retrieve already available police dispatch and records information to quickly fill in crime and accident report data fields so patrol officers could quickly go back to their patrol, community policing, and crime prevention duties.

Recent San Jose crime or incident data is not easily available for 1-2 days or more after a crime or series of crimes occurs. Access to recent computerized incident and crime records would allow patrol officers or detectives to quickly analyze recent crime reports to determine crime patterns and dispatch specialized or additional patrol units with the crime report’s suspect or suspicious vehicle descriptions to prevent or solve multiple crimes.

Since 2007, San Jose’s 50-officer traffic unit has successfully used hand-held computers to replace the previous paper-based traffic citation process and improve accuracy in issuing, collecting and recording citations for traffic violations, DUIs and other violations.

A modern police records management system could be used to easily prepare crime, routine police, and requested police statistical reports, retrieve police record requests, and redact victim and witness information which now takes many staff hours or is not available due to staff shortages. Significant police officer and staff time would then be available to focus on further reducing our city’s crime rates to make San Jose a safer city.

Pledge Recap

One week ago on this blog, San Jose Police Officers' Association President Bobby Lopez posted a challenge he issued to Mayor Reed and the entire City Council. He asked that our city leaders sign a pledge to:

Return San Jose to the rank of “Safest Big City in America” within the next five years;

Support our officers by refraining from knee-jerk reactions to activist complaints, particularly from those who lack expertise; and

Involve more neighborhood leaders on committees and task forces regarding public safety.

We noted that not every member of the Council had signed or committed to sign the pledge. In the comments that followed Sgt. Lopez's post, our readers asked that we reveal the names of councilmembers who had not signed on. In the interest of sunshine and open government, we feel it's only fair to do so:

Signed pledge
Mayor Chuck Reed
Vice Mayor Judy Chirco
Councilmember Pete Constant
Councilmember Ash Kalra
Councilmember Kansen Chu
Councilmember Nora Campos
Councilmember Madison Nguyen
Councilmember Nancy Pyle

No response
Councilmember Sam Liccardo
Councilmember Rose Hererra

Other
Councilmember Pierluigi Oliverio responded to our request to say that he does not sign pledges as a matter of principle.

NOTE: The Mayor and Council were contacted multiple times regarding the pledge after Sgt. Lopez hand delivered it at a City Council meeting.

We need your help!

By Jim Unland

In case you missed it, San Jose suffered its 17th homicide of the year on Wednesday night. With four killings so far in July, we’re on pace to match if not exceed San Jose’s rising homicide rates of the past few years. As you can see from this interactive map, none of our neighborhoods are immune from this horrible crime:

View in a larger map

I can only hope that if our city leaders had followed through on the staffing increases they’ve been promising for as long as I can remember, we might have been able to prevent more of these tragic deaths. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts and attrition, the San Jose Police Department has returned to 1998 personnel levels. In the meantime, the city’s population has grown by more than 140,000.

Despite being overtasked and understaffed, the men and women of the SJPD work as hard as they can to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. But we can’t do it alone. We rely on members of the community to help by providing us with tips and information that we can use to catch the criminals who prey upon our residents.

If you have information that could help us solve a crime, you don’t have to worry about retaliation from anyone involved. Just call the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers anonymous tip line at (408) 947-STOP or submit an anonymous tip online by using this simple web form.

You can also visit the SJPD website for information on ongoing investigations and cold cases, many of which have been solved with help from the community.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.

Sgt. Jim Unland is a 21-year veteran of the SJPD and a member of the Board of Directors of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association.

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