Homicides dip in San Jose in 2009

January 1, 2010 11:46:57 PM PST
City officials report a major effort to fight crime is working.

"So, on behalf of all the people, I'm just here to say thanks, keep up the good work," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Reed had good reason to be proud of his officers when he showed up at the watch commander's briefing Thursday afternoon. Murder was down in the city for the second year in a row. There were 27 homicides in 2009 -- five fewer than the year before.

Chief Rob Davis says community policing is paying off.

"There's an immense amount of community support for the police department and when there's a crime that occurs, we really do get information from the community that helps us solve those crimes," said Davis.

Most telling of all was the drop in gang related murders. There were nine last year, which was a third of all the homicides in San Jose, whereas, in 2008, gang murders accounted for a half of the total. Police say the mayor's gang prevention task force, a coalition of city and community agencies, can take much of the credit for the decline.

"They've taken down one of the major street crime gangs with people that are wanted for homicides, and attempted homicides; so that's had an impact," said Reed.

Diamond Saenesouk, 16, used to hang around with gangs until she got help from a community based group.

"My brother, he's gang affiliated and my friends are in gangs. To me when I look at them, it feels like they don't get attention from around their house or anything," said Saenesouk.

Saenesouk joined the group Part-I, which helps youngsters at risk. Winston Ashby founded the group. He agrees with the mayor that collaboration with different agencies has been the key to their success.

"We're keeping youth busy. We're giving them opportunities and we're intervening when need be, but most importantly, we're doing a lot of prevention," said Ashby.

The police department says some 80 officers are expected to retire in 2010. That's twice the normal number in a given year and no one knows what affect that will have on one of America's safest cities.