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San Jose City Council members, Mayor Chuck Reed, Police Chief Chris Moore and others gathered Tuesday night at City Hall for a public study session on the police response to violent crime and gang activity. The session began as a detailed overview of what police have done to manage crime in the face of budget cuts, staffing deficits, and a summer flare-up of violent crime in the city. It ended with most of the council members weighing in on what the city and department should do to maintain the quality and staffing levels of the police force.
In his opening presentation, Moore noted that there is evidence that the Police Department is less well-equipped to battle crime than it has been in recent years, in part because it has fewer officers now than at any other time in the past decade. Assistant Chief Rikki Goede said, “The department is facing unprecedented challenges at all levels.” Police response times for the highest-priority crimes have increased this year, and the numbers of violent crimes and property crimes are likely to be the same or higher than last year, Moore said. The city has seen 33 homicides so far this year. There were 39 total in 2011. Regarding gang-related crime, Moore said, “We are seeing an overall reduction in the number of gang-related incidents that are occurring, but those that are occurring are becoming much more violent.” Still, Moore said, San Jose is “still very safe.”
The meeting came the day after Moore announced that he will resign in January, 27 years after he joined the police force. He has been chief for less than two years. After hearing the Police Department’s presentation, a number of council members made suggestions. Councilman Sam Liccardo questioned whether the department should bill other cities when it sends officers outside city limits to assist other departments. He also suggested that the city could use community service officers for more tasks. Councilman Pete Constant recommended using reserve officers as other large California cities do, while Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio suggested bringing willing, retired officers back as independent contractors. Councilman Ash Kalra disagreed with that idea, saying, “It troubles me when we talk about hiring reserves and bringing in retired officers … I’d ask us to respect our sworn officers.”
The City Hall study session overlapped with another public safety event organized by the Police Officers’ Association to educate residents on how to protect themselves from being the victims of crime, according to Police Officers’ Association President Jim Unland. That meeting, which Unland said had been planned for more than a month, was began at 6:30 p.m. at the Young Men’s Christian Association at 1975 S. White Road.
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