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SAN JOSE ELECTION 2014 and THE MYTH OF AMERICA’S “SAFEST BIG CITY”; A Different Spin on Public Safety and the Numbers (editorial, part 1 of 3)

Mayoral Candidate, Sam Liccardo, has been following closely with the rhetoric of terming-out mayor Chuck Reed; that is, insisting in recent interviews and editorials,Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 2.07.10 PM from late August into September 2014, that the city’s “crime rate continues to fall in 2014.

Just as of August 20, 2014, Sam Liccardo wrote a similarly stated editorial for the San Jose Mercury News, stating that “The FBI reports that major felonies actually dropped 10 percent in San Jose the year after Measure B passed, and homicides and property crimes have continued dropping since.

Liccardo’s editorial is slickly stated; whereas, looking at the same report it seems disingenuous — politically insincere — as to how he can overlook the rest of the findings from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, aside from some other outlying factors and implications.

In a sense, although Liccardo appears to be fluent in FBI and SJ Police Report Statistics; it’s really no wonder as to why the city’s police department has become vehemently opposed to both Mayor Reed and his chosen successor, Sam Liccardo.

To show that regards about Measure B are only a small part of the differences between the City Council and the Police Department, it was just this week that four former San Jose Police Chiefs came together and stood in opposition, challenging both Mayor Reed and Sam Liccardo’s stubbornness.   It’s not often that collective experience comes together like this; but, at that, Liccardo found a quick exit, making a blow-off to all the former chiefs as he claimed that he had an appointment at the gym.

It’s premised that the difficulty of the situation all begins with a moniker; when San Jose was once named the nation’s “safest big city” as early as 2002.  Oddly, it’s often forgotten that by 2007 the city lost its six-year reign, so named with this branded status that was created by publisher Morgan Quitno Press; but, by that time, credibility of this study was under attack and the FBI itself would not endorse particular use of its information to create such a moniker, attaching a “caution against ranking.”

Despite this, even now as of 2014, it seems that political interests are uncompromising in their attempt to reclaim that legacy, if not by its rightful merit, then with an outward appearance.

Incidentally, it was also in the year 2007 that Mayor Reed happened to move from a position as San Jose City Councilmember (elected the year 2000), then to be elected as Mayor; which was the same year when San Jose’s total reported property crimes were 24,062,  with the value of such property stolen at $57,473,927.   Compare that to later in Reed’s term, by the year 2013, when the total dollar value of reported stolen property had jumped to a total amount of $76,146,636.

In other words, when doing the math, Reed’s tenure in office has seen an increase in total property crimes, from 2007 to 2013, for the amount of $18,672,709.  In shorthand, that’s near $18.7 million.

Screen Shot 2014-09-22 at 12.36.52 AM

Yet, Reed and Liccardo want voters to believe that public safety has improved since 2012’s record-breaking 32,010 crimes; that is after voters approved June 5, 2012’s Measure B pension reform.

Consider 2011’s crime statistics for its high-value property crime,  including a total number of motor vehicle thefts reported at 5,121.  That’s 14 stolen vehicles per day.

Then, contrast those figures with that which is reported after Measure B; whereas,  total motor vehicle thefts for 2012 increased to 8,759; which is equal to 24 vehicles every day or one vehicle stolen for every 60 minutes.

In 2013, vehicle theft slightly decreased to 7,926; or 21 vehicles per day; or one vehicle was stolen every 66 minutes.

Despite all these findings, it’s in their recent Mayoral campaign talks, that things like stolen vehicles have become just one of several factors that Reed and Liccardo continue to leave on the “down low,” and as if to not mention for political reasons. It’s interesting to note that vehicle theft is another easy crime and, yet, having said all that, it nevertheless results with low arrest rates.

After San Jose police detectives were assigned to patrol cars or they left the department, vehicle theft increased 71% from 2011’s amount at 5,127 to 2012’s amount at 8,759 vehicles.  In other words, for 2012, that’s almost 24 (23.99) vehicles each day.  In clearest terms, vehicle theft averaged to one each hour.

More simply, while reported crime rates have slightly decreased since 2012’s record-breaking high-crime rate (that is, showing violent crimes amounting to 3,547 and property crime at 28,463, for a total of 32,010 crimes); still, it’s significant to note that the value of stolen property had increased over the duration every year, coming to 2013’s record of $76 million.

Compare that number to 2007’s value amount at $57 million.  Then, too, notice a recovery rate that is down from 2007’s reported 50% to 2013’s stated 41.5%.

All this happened while the city transferred detectives to patrol.  Aside from which, many officers had left the force, depriving San Jose with valuable knowledge of local criminals and investigative practices.

It’s reasonable to question if residents and businesses are reporting all property crimes; because many people will not bother reporting a crime if the value of the stolen items does not represent a large investment or capital investment.

Obviously, not everything compares to the value of a vehicle.    Consider, too, the difference between homeowners versus renters, of which renters frequently have less comprehensive insurance to cover the loss of their items.  Still, in either situation, considerations are subject to an insurance deductible.  Individually, theft of less valued items are less frequently reported; but, collectively, they can amount to millions of dollars of stolen goods that are overlooked and never compensated.  Typically, such goods are re-sold by criminal dealers at the “fence” or black market.

For example, if many people had hardship during the 2008-2012 recession, then many of them may have cancelled insurance policies, if not increased the deductible to higher amounts.  Added to that difficulty, many of such individuals do not report property losses. Altogether then, if people decide that something is below their deductible, then it’s less likely for the police to report the crime, aside from even respond.

At that, San Jose has fewer detectives and the city police force is more than likely not investigating the majority of property crimes.  In that sense, politicians will still assume that the reported property crimes have significantly decreased.

A future article by de·Anza Post will look at the urban legend of being America’s so-called “Safest Big City,” and the controversies associated with such rankings.   For example, to create such a moniker, San Jose is compared to other large cities over 500,000.   But, it’s factors such as local demographics, economy, unemployment rates, and types of jobs/resident skills that affect crime rates; which is, of course, something that can vary greatly from region to region, across the United States.

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