Attacked, home alone – a 95-year-old San Jose woman says she was sleeping at 7 a.m. Monday morning when a man picked the lock on her gate and kicked down her back door at her home on the 1100 block of Laurie Avenue. When she woke up and confronted him, police say he pepper-sprayed her in the face. Though she’s okay now, this story transcends the Willow Glen neighborhood where she has lived for the past 40 years.
Neighbors are upset. Shanna Desai, mother of two, lives down the street on Laurie Avenue. She says she was horrified and appalled hearing about the home invasion just a few doors down. Desai says she’s upset at city leaders for not putting more police officers on the streets, and believes criminals have learned to take advantage.
“People aren’t sleeping well at night knowing they could be the next target,” said Desai. “We’ve had too many things happen in a short parameter of time, so nobody feels comfortable.”
According to the latest numbers from San Jose police, as of September, response times were majorly lagging. Monday morning’s home invasion qualified as “Priority Two.” Instead of the target eleven-minute response, the report shows it takes an average of nearly 18 minutes for officers to response to those cases. On top of that, the same numbers show burglaries are up 54- and 72-percent in two areas of Willow Glen, and almost 35-percent city-wide.
James Gonzales, a spokesman for the Police Officers’ Association in San Jose, says the worst part is that City Hall is not publicizing these growing crimes. He says union members believe city leaders are trying to keep those numbers out of the public to distract people from a short-staffed police department.
“We’re down 340 officers and we’re down a gang enforcement team, burglaries are up 150-percent in areas of Evergreen,” Gonzales said. “There should be more press releases, more information provided to the public. We’ve seen a systemic quelling of information about crime coming from City Hall.”
But Councilwoman Rose Herrera says the union is waging a political campaign against city leaders like her.
“I’m not in charge of what gets released,” said Herrera, adding, “We need to work together. It doesn’t do any good to have the union leadership out there working against the elected leaders.”
Gonzales says the last straw happened in June, when city councilmembers rejected adding five police officers and a sergeant to the Burglary Investigation Unit, leaving two detectives to solve an average of 5,700 cases each year. Even District 4 Councilman Kansen Chu agrees the city hasn’t been making public safety it’s number one priority.
“I think that’s probably why we see an increase in burglaries.”
Herrera says adding those officers to the investigations unit would have taken men and women in uniform off the streets, hurting day-to-day patrol operations. She also accuses the union of waging a political campaign against her, using skewed crime statistics.
“I find it very disingenuous that the police union is accusing me of not supporting them or not acknowledging certain numbers when they’re waging a camp of disinformation against me in my district, trying to scare people using cherry-picked numbers.”
The complaints go beyond Herrera to City Hall as a whole. Gonzales says SJPD’s public information officers report to the police chief, who reports to City Hall.
“There should be more press releases, more information provided to the public. We’ve seen a systemic quelling of information about crime coming from City Hall. We’ve seen a denial of the increases that are happening.”