Major crime rates in San Jose have spiked above both the state and national averages, and an auditor's report cites the police department's "staffing reductions" as a factor in the rising numbers.
Just three years ago, San Jose recorded 35 percent fewer major crimes than the average of California and the average of the country.
According to the annual report by city auditor Sharon Winslow Erickson, San Jose’s major crime rate is now three percent above the state average and 1 percent above the U.S. average. That is higher than Los Angeles and San Diego, but lower than San Francisco and Oakland.
San Jose's crime rate is still far lower than those of San Francisco and Oakland. And an unusually large share of San Jose's crimes are burglaries, vehicle thefts and other property crimes, while its violent crime rate is still lower than Los Angeles and San Diego, according to the Mercury News.
Major crimes include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and vehicle theft.
The report states that last year, there were more than 32,000 reported major crimes in San Jose, 27 percent more than 2011.
Even though crime rates have risen, the report shows police made fewer arrests – just 17,000 last year, down from about 36,000 in 2007.
In addition to climbing crime rates, the average emergency response times in San Jose are increasing.
In 2005, the average response time for Priority 2 emergency calls has been steadily rising since 2007, from 11.4 minutes to 20.3 minutes this year. That is well above the city’s targeted response time of 11 minutes.
Priority 1 calls have also increased, but not by much. The quickest response time in the last decade was 5.6 minutes in 2003. Last year, the average was 6.5 minutes, and this year’s average is 6.7 minutes. The city’s target response time for Priority 1 emergency calls is six minutes.
The auditor’s report says there is a reason response times for Priority 1 calls have remained somewhat steady.
“As staffing reductions have affected the SJPD, the department has focused on maintaining the Priority 1 response times close to the target as those are calls involving present or imminent danger to life or major property loss,” the report states. “Priority 2 calls are those which involve either injury or property damage, or the potential for either to occur.”
Between 2012 and 2013, more than 950,000 people called 911, 39,000 more than the previous year. According to the city, San Jose’s population has only increased by 14,423 since last year to 984,299.
The auditor’s office obtained a National Citizen Survey that stated 40 percent of people asked said they feel “very” or “somewhat” safe from violent crimes in San Jose.
In the same survey, 27 percent of San Jose residents asked said they or someone in their homes were victims of crimes in the past years.
Meanwhile, SJPD’s traffic enforcement unit issued significantly fewer citations in 2012 and 2013. Officers handed out about 22,500 citations, 17 percent fewer than the 27,275 issued in 2011-2012.
In addition, 1,255 DUIs were recorded this year. That’s 20 percent fewer than last year and 49 percent fewer than five years ago.
San Jose recently cut pay for police officers by 10 percent and hundreds of officers either quit or lost their jobs.
On Dec. 10, the San Jose City Council agreed to give police officers a 10 percent raise over the next two-and-a-half years.