The numbers paint the grim picture best: in 2006, the San Jose Police Department had a total of 26 people staffing its Burglary-Fraud Unit. Today that number stands at just six.
That also means instead of 10 people investigating burglary reports, there is just one detective assigned to the role.
It’s no wonder people like John Olguin are upset. The East Foothills neighborhood 15-year resident said a spike in burglaries has hit his neighborhood in the last year, and he blames the low police staffing levels.
“They know San Jose police doesn’t get there until 20, 30 minutes later and sometimes they don’t show up at all,” said Olguin. “I know it’s not their fault, they’re undermanned.”
Most recently, two people broke into Olguin’s neighbor’s house on the 800 block of Fleming Avenue Tuesday afternoon. One woman who wanted to remain anonymous told NBC Bay Area she came face to face with the two crooks while they broke into the house, carrying out a safe with gold inside.
She even had enough time to snap pictures on her cell phone showing a young woman running into the getaway vehicle: a white pickup truck.
She said locking eyes with the woman was very unsettling.
“She just looked over very [nonchalantly] like it’s no big deal, and I thought, wow, this is crazy,” said the woman. “When I saw the look on their faces, they didn’t stop. They didn’t hesitate. They had it down.”
She added the victims did file a police report but were told it is a low priority. San Jose Police Sergeant Enrique Garcia said the low staffing has made it difficult for the sole burglary detective to get to everything, much less in a timely manner.
Here’s the breakdown of the Burglary-Fraud Unit numbers:
10 Burglary Detectives
9 Fraud Detectives
3 Civilian Support Staff
1 Burglary Detective
2 Fraud Detectives
2 Civilian Support Staff
The witness said it’s no wonder the burglars seem to be getting more brazen. She described the recent crooks as careless, people who didn’t hide their faces nor their license plate.
“These people don’t care if they get caught,” she said. “They know the statistics, the cops aren’t coming.”
For her, it’s not just a matter of property crime. She believes it’s only a matter of time until it escalates into a violent situation. She said the burglars dropped a big switchblade inside her neighbor’s house during the break-in. As a mother of young children, that’s been the most unsettling part of it all.
“It takes it to another level. He had a knife for a reason, he was prepared.”
The staffing has hit the department for the last few years. At one point, in roughly 2008, the department had about 1,400 active, full-duty, sworn officers, according to Sgt. Garcia. In January that had dropped to 894 and in just five months this year, that’s already declined to 855.
It’s news that comes on the same day the U.S. Census revealed San Jose had passed the one-million population mark, making it the tenth most populous city in the country.