Santa Clara County Sheriff's Deputies May Help San Jose Deal with Increasing Crime

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    Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies may be called on to help San Jose's struggling police force keep up with increasing crime. Nannette Miranda reports. (Published Monday, April 14, 2014)

    Santa Clara County Sheriff's deputies may be called on to help San Jose's struggling police force keep up with increasing crime.

    The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to discuss the idea Tuesday. The county has a similar agreement in place with Cupertino and Los Gatos.

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    A proposal to study the idea came after the City of San Jose was recently only able to recruit about half of the 60 open slots in its police academy. Officials said the city would use the money from those unfilled positions to pay for the deputies.

    Residents in the Willow Glen neighborhood, where crime is on the rise, said more officers will definitely help San Jose -- once called "America's safest city."

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    "If they have extra, then yeah, it makes sense to send them to the area that has more crime," said Laura Mojica, a Willow Glen resident.

    The San Jose Police Department currently has 500 fewer officers on staff than it had in 2007. Calls are now prioritized because there are not enough cops on the streets.

    Richard Zappelli, who heads the Willow Glen neighborhood watch program, said many residents do not bother to report some incidents.

    "A lot of people are giving up now," he said. "Why call when they're not going to come out?"

    Tamara Martin is one resident who has felt the effects of a smaller police force in San Jose.

    "My husband got his car stolen on South 3rd Street," she said. "And I had my bike stolen twice."

    The department has had a problem with recruiting cadets and with officers leaving. Budget cuts and pension reform have led to layoffs and departures that may look unattractive to job candidates and current officers.

    Supervisor and mayoral candidate David Cortese said the plan to bring in deputies would only be for up to two years, just until the city can fill its ranks.

    San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, who would like the department to focus on recruiting, said he is adding a third police academy in the next budget year. He is not so sure calling on county deputies is the answer.

    "They don't know our city. They're not trained in our program," Reed said. "They don't know about our gangs and they do a different kind of work."

    The San Jose police union, however, said more bodies will help.

    "I wish they would just look in the mirror, face up to the fact they messed up and that it's their responsibility to fix this, but they won't do it," said Jim Unland of the San Jose Police Officers Association.