Violent and street gang-related crimes have fallen in San Jose this year following a law enforcement strategy by the Police Department that has made suppressing gangs its long-term strategy, police said today. San Jose police trumpeted statistics showing across-the-board reductions in major crimes within the city limits for the first nine months of 2013, if modest ones for murder and rape. The percentage rates of the four major categories of violent crime, including homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, fell 10.2 percent citywide from January to the end of August compared to those months in 2012, the department reported.
Homicides were about the same at 30 for the period, down from 31 last year, about a 3 percent change. Rapes, totaling 169 so far this year, fell by 5.5 percent with robberies down almost 12 percent and aggravated assaults decreasing by nearly 10 percent, police said. Gang-related crimes dropped by 19 percent in the period, with the gang-tied homicide rate reduced by 42 percent (from 14 to 8), robberies by 39 percent, aggravated assaults by almost 15 percent and simple assaults by more than 7 percent, police reported.
The department started its law enforcement strategy, called the Violent Crime Reduction Plan, on June 20, sending extra officers from special operations and gang units to work patrol shifts on evenings and weekends, according to police Lt. Jason Dwyer. The department recently made limiting gang-related crime its long-term goal, Dwyer said. With the start of the new school year this month, the department altered the schedules of special operations and gang unit officers to cover areas near schools during morning and afternoon peak times, Dwyer said.
On Sept. 1, the department started focusing on gang-crime enforcement with “highly visible” special unit patrols in known gang neighborhoods and a Gang Suppression Unit with 12 officers and two sergeants assigned solely to police gang “hot spots,” Dwyer said. The high-visibility patrols, involving the MERGE, or SWAT team, officers, and the Mobile Emergency Response Group, or METRO, a rapid response unit of officers, will continue to serve on an overtime basis in gang locales in the city, Dwyer said.
Gang unit officers will work in pairs within patrol cars assigned to two gang areas apiece and share crime intelligence with other patrol officers, Dwyer said. METRO unit officers, when not on visible patrols, are to focus on “quality of life” issues such as a graffiti, prostitution and blight within their assigned neighborhoods, Dwyer said. The department’s gang-enforcement effort with the extra patrols and units deployed since June 20, conducted 357 searches, made 83 arrests and 56 warrant arrests, issued 88 criminal citations, confiscated four guns and three knives or blunt weapons during 912 hours worked, according to Dwyer.
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