The State of Public Safety in San Jose

By Ed Rast

These are the facts:

San Jose residents, businesses and neighborhood leaders have consistently ranked public safety as the highest city service budget priority.

Our police and fire officers are widely recognized as hard working, motivated professionals and have developed innovative and highly effective public safety programs to offset over a decade of understaffing and budget shortages.

SJPD programs like community policing, gang prevention, and neighborhood action are proven to reduce or prevent crime. License plate readers identify stolen vehicles, and Public Computer Aided Dispatch educates the public about crime in their neighborhoods and citywide.

The fire department is implementing expanded Community Emergency Response training like Heart Safe City to keep people alive until emergency personnel arrive.

San Jose has a very low ratio of police and fire officers to residents. Our public safety departments have faced numerous budget reductions. The failure to maintain officer numbers in proportion to our population and geographical area has resulted in severe under-staffing. Each officer’s workload has dramatically increased as ranks are stretched across an ever-expanding city -— reducing overall public safety.

The results have been slower police, fire and emergency medical response rates than other local cities and many more unreported, un-investigated, and unsolved crimes than we’ve seen in past years.

Even with staff and budget shortages, San Jose has only declined from 1st to 4th Safest Large City in America (over 500,000 population) according to FBI crime data. This shows how effective our police department is compared to other large cities.

In my opinion, San Jose needs a facts-based, less-emotional community conversation about community policing and emergency response; about community expectations, crime rates and how staffing and funding affect outcomes; about how we compare to other local cities, what are acceptable and unacceptable performance measures, and solutions that will deliver the public safety results our community desires.

I’ll share my thoughts about these issues and the data to back them up on this blog. I hope we can have a substantive, productive discussion.

Check back tomorrow for a special guest blog from Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico.

Neighborhood Safety Vigil

By Kathleen Flynn

On May 23, 2008, I lost a friend of 23 years to a senseless crime. My friend, Vahid Hosseini, was only 47 years old when he died. Vahid was a son, a brother, a husband, a father of two beautiful daughters, a small business owner, and a beloved member of the community.

Vahid owned the Willow Market in San Jose, a few blocks from Bank of the West, on First Street. One day, Vahid went to the bank to withdraw money for his check cashing business. As he was leaving the bank, three men came up from behind, robbed him in broad daylight, shot him execution style, and left him to die in the parking lot. To my deep sadness, Vahid passed away from his gunshot wound on June 3, 2008.

I’m very proud to say that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the San Jose Police Department, Crime Stoppers, and members of the community, police recently arrested five suspects involved in Vahid’s murder. The investigation of is still ongoing.

In an effort to honor the memories of my friend Vahid, Officer Jeffrey Fontana, victims of violent crime, their families, and the SJPD, I have organized a neighborhood safety vigil.

Please join us outside City Hall on Tuesday, June 9th, from 7 to 9 p.m. as we gather to support the silent majority of San Jose residents and our wonderful police department.

Speakers and honored guests will include:

  • Dolores Carr, District Attorney of Santa Cara County
  • Hon. Pete Constant, San Jose City Council
  • Bobby Lopez, President, San Jose Police Officers’ Association
  • Randy Sekany, President, International Association of Fire Fighters Local 230
  • Jim Cogan, President, Crime Stoppers
  • Sandy Fontana, mother of slain San Jose police officer Jeffrey Fontana
  • Cassandra and LeeAnn Hosseini, Vahid's daughter and widow

There will also be a blessing delivered by Dr. Bonita Carter-Cox, President of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Association of Santa Clara Valley, and Police Chaplin Bridgen.


By Bobby Lopez

This past week, I’ve been a pretty popular guy.

I’m getting a lot of calls about a video we put together for this website.

I was in the city council chambers a few weeks ago when a vocal police critic made some really outrageous comments. The Mayor and most Councilmembers just sat on their hands. As you can imagine, I was a little upset. I wanted others to see what I saw... and thought.

Sure enough, supporters of the critic responded to our video with one of their own. In the interest of fairness, I’m including it here. Watch both, judge for yourself, and comment if you want to.

Attacks like this are nothing new to the men and women of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association. We’re used to handling criticism and difficult people. It’s what we do every day as part of our jobs.

But in the past, we haven’t had a forum to defend ourselves from half-truths and misrepresentations made by people who know very little about police work. The Mercury News won’t print some letters and opinion pieces we submit to them. While I understand it’s their paper and their right, I can’t say I understand their decisions. Our own Vanguard newsletter appears only once a month. It does a good job of serving our members and their union concerns, but we can’t use it to quickly respond to breaking news or fresh criticism.

That’s why we’re launching to create an open forum for our members, neighborhood leaders, and all residents who care deeply about public safety in our great city.

We’ll use this site to respond quickly and honestly to any and all attacks on our integrity. This site will also be a forum for neighborhood leaders and community members who will blog regularly. Hell, we’ll even give our critics an opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech.

The video that’s received so much attention is just one part of this exciting project. Visitors will also find up-to-date news and information about their neighborhoods, including recent crimes on an easy-to-use map.

Have a look around, and keep coming back for regular updates from all the voices in our diverse community.

Most importantly, stay safe.

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