General Crime

* Brian Bennett Identified as Murder Victim in San Jose

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Police have identified 38-year-old Brian Bennett of San Jose as the homicide victim found in Northwood Park on Saturday. Around 6 a.m., a pedestrian walking through the park at Guildhall and Cardington drives reported finding a man’s body, police said. Initially, police believed there was no foul play involved, but an autopsy later revealed that Bennett was murdered. Police have not yet identified any suspects in the killing.

The homicide was the 30th this year in San Jose and one of a string of homicides and violent crimes that have swept the city in the past two weeks. In the past 24 hours alone, police have reported two additional homicides, including the April death of a child now considered a homicide, bringing the homicide count to 32 for this year.

On Tuesday night, a man was stabbed to death in a Safeway supermarket at 3002 Story Road just before 8:40 p.m. The victim, who was in his 20s, was pronounced dead at the scene. Today, police identified a suspect in the April death of a 17-month-old boy, now considered the city’s 32nd homicide of the year. That suspect, Alejandro Benitez, is currently in police custody in lieu of $500,000 bail and is expected to be arraigned on Friday.

Today John Robb, vice president of the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, said that he believes the violence is a result of San Jose having fewer officers per capita than most other major cities– a phenomenon he attributed to the difficulty in retaining officers because of pay cuts. “In a city with an understaffed police force,” Robb said, “criminals are going to commit more crimes.”

But San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed sees the issue differently. “First of all, we have one of the lowest homicide rates of any big city,” Reed said. Reed also said that homicide numbers “fluctuate wildly,” saying that in January of 2010, the city had about ten homicides. Despite those instances, 2010 saw only 20 total homicides– the lowest number since 2000, when there were also 20.

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