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Hilbert Morales Pulbisher

Hilbert Morales
Pulbisher

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The level of community safety and security in San Jose is the lowest in many years. The current situation is a direct outcome of the current recession and an awareness of unfunded pension obligations. Recall those past budgets which resulted in service and staffing cutbacks. In addition, Mayor Chuck Reed became the champion of resolving San Jose’s unfunded pension obligations which impacted both police and firefighter staffing levels.

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At the March La Raza Roundtable meeting, Captain Pat Tapia, SJFD, informed the audience present that San Jose had 0.56 Firefighters per 10,000 residents when similar sized cities elsewhere in the nation had 2.58. The outcome of being so short staffed was longer response times which had increased to more than 8 minutes for both fires and medical incidents. The San Francisco Fire Department has a response standard of 6 minutes. The SJFD staffing must be increased to permit the response time to become six minutes or less. Closed Fire Stations must be staffed and re-opened. In addition, the 911 emergency staff no longer has needed bilingual staff, especially in Spanish and Vietnamese languages. Communication with understanding is essential for short response times.

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Captain Tapia asked those present to inform their elected representatives and ask for responsible reaction. A similar performance level is being delivered by the San Jose Police Department. In good economic times, its staffing level was 1,400 officers. Today, as an outcome of budget cutbacks, its current staffing level is 900 officers. This during a time when state prisons are transferring inmates back to the local county jails. Since this ‘realignment’ began, the local crime rate (car thefts, burglaries, assalts, etc.) has increased.

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Supervisor Cortese’s Proposal to assist San Jose Police Department was approved by the Board of Supervisors (5-0 vote). An effort will be made to develop an agreement between the County Sheriff and San Jose to have Sheriff Deputies do neighborhood patrols. Many unincorporated community pockets already are the responsibility of the Office of the Sheriff. One concern of the Board of Supervisors was to negotiate an agreement which did not subsidize the City for the cost of providing the protective services needed to increase the level of community safety and security desired to make San Jose the safest city in this nation.

This transition agreement is needed while the City works to fill a large number of vacancies in their police department.

An analysis by the Sheriff’s Office of how this agreeent could work will be considered by the Board of Supervisors at its April 29, 2014 meeting. This analysis will include:

A) The number of sheriff’s officers that could be made available to the City of San Jose while still maintaining protective services to Cupertino, Saratoga and Los Altos Hills, as well as to Valley Transportation Authority, County Parks, Superior Court and Stanford University.

B) An estimate of costs to the County that could result from this transition agreement.
C) The schedules of upcoming Sheriff’s Academies and the number of students enrolled.
D) Other resources from the Sheriff’s Office that might be needed to provide temporary help, such as vehicles, fuel, weapons and other equipment or perhaps help with investigations and evidence storage.

E) A timeline of when Sheriff’s officers could be available under a temporary agreement.

Cortese proposed the action because San Jose is facing a critical need to increase the number of officers in its police force, which has dropped from 1,400 officers to about 900 active duty officers in six years. San Jose has also been unable to fill its police academies with enough qualified applicants.A smaller San Jose police force has increased emergency response times from 11 minutes to 20 minutes for the most urgent calls, and has been forced to eliminate some units, such as the burglary unit.

“I believe our Sheriff’s officers could increase neighborhood patrols to help prevent home burglaries and assist in catching and locking up neighborhood criminals,” Cortese said. 

Because San Jose makes up 60 percent of the County’s population, crimes that take place in San Jose threaten the safety of residents in unincorporated County pockets as well as residents in the cities adjacent to San Jose.

For input and/or more information, contact the Office of Supervisor Dave Cortese at 408-299-5030; Email: Lara.McCabe@bos.sccgov.org.Publisher’s Note: Both the City and County may have to prepare a ballot measure to provide for the revenues needed and designated solely for public safety and security.

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