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Back to the Future: Bringing Community Policing Back to San Jose

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What makes a good city great? We can all identify a few favorite ingredients: excellent schools, vibrant neighborhoods, high-wage job opportunities, attractive parks and public spaces, and inviting cultural amenities.

In the hierarchy of priorities, though, our residents first need to feel safe in their homes and in their neighborhoods. If we cannot meet this basic need, every other goal falls to a distant second place.

As a former criminal prosecutor, I know all too well the ripple effect of a single crime on a community. When we talk about fighting crime, we are also fighting for a stronger economy, better schools, great public services, and all the other things we want for San Jose -- because a safer city is necessary to making all of them possible.

To move this conversation forward, I'm putting forth a detailed set of proposals focused on improving public safety. Here are just a few of the ideas:

Restore community policing in San José. Thirty years ago, the "community policing" approach began here in San Jose, and became a national model. Unfortunately, the contract with our police union enables officers with seniority to move out of any beat after six months. That means they can't develop the relationships, familiarity and trust required to effectively engage in a neighborhood, undermining the effectiveness of community policing. As mayor I will make a return to community policing a top priority as we sit down to negotiate our next police contract.

We need to add 200 more police officers to our streets -- and that's just the beginning. On the City Council, I recently proposed a plan with Mayor Reed -- which the Council overwhelmingly approved -- to restore 200 officers to our neighborhoods within three-and-a-half years. And that's just the start. When times were tough, we made very tough decisions to keep our books balanced here in San Jose. I will continue to lead on pension reform and fiscal responsibility, but with an improving economy, we must focus budgetary savings on hiring and retaining the police and firefighters we need to keep our city safe.

We need to deploy the most modern technology to leverage our scarce resources more effectively. From my plan to create a voluntary online registry of safety video cameras to help police quickly identify potentially critical evidence, to a more aggressive use of data analytics to better deploy police patrols, we can use technology more effectively. San Jose should be a model to other cities in the use of cutting-edge policing technology, in the heart of the Silicon Valley where much of this technology is being developed.

These are just a few elements of my strategy. I'm not claiming to have all the answers, though, and ultimately, any plan to improve public safety needs the input of our neighborhood groups, police department, prosecutors, victims' rights advocates and the residents who deal with crime in their communities. I hope this proposal will become a catalyst for a substantive conversation on safety. When everyone's voice is heard, we can crowd-source the best ideas and most effective solutions to this challenge.

Working together we can restore San Jose's rightful place on the mantel as America's safest big city.

You can read the full proposal online at www.SamLiccardo.com.

Councilmember Sam Liccardo represents San José's Third District on the San Jose City Council, one of the most diverse communities in our city. Prior to winning election to City Council, Sam served in the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office as a prosecutor of sexual assault and child exploitation crimes, and as a federal prosecutor.