SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — In California, homicides jumped 31% last year, marking it the deadliest year since 2007.
According to annual reports from the state Attorney General’s office, 2,202 homicides last year were 523 more than in 2019 — while the rate increased by a similar margin from 4.2 to 5.5 homicides per 100,000 people.
San Jose was no different — recording 40 homicides in 2020, six more than the year prior.
But with just under a month left in 2021, San Jose could finish out the year with fewer homicides than last year and its lowest since 2018.
Currently, the city has recorded 30 homicides in 2021.
San Jose homicides
Since 2015, San Jose has averaged approximately 36 homicides a year — a low of 27 in 2018 to a high of 47 in 2016.
San Jose’s homicide rate recorded 3.8 homicides per 100,000 people in 2020 — the highest since 2016’s rate of 4.5.
The last homicide reported in San Jose was on Thursday, after a man was shot and killed near the 3300 block of Holly Drive at around 1:47 p.m.
When officers and paramedics arrived, they began to provide life saving measures but the man was pronounced dead at the scene — marking the City’s 30th homicide of 2021.
SJPD says the motive and circumstances surrounding the incident are currently under investigation.
Challenges to the judicial system
A separate homicide that took place on Halloween has since sparked controversy over the handling of the case.
On Halloween, police say they responded to a call of shots fired near the 5200 block of Great Oaks Parkway — when they arrived they found an adult man suffering from at least one gunshot wound.
The victim was taken to a local hospital where he died from his injuries.
Upon investigating, police determined 26-year-old Alfred Castillo and 27-year-old Efrain Anzures as suspects and arrested them soon after.
According to SJPD, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office filed charges on both men who were arrested in connection with the homicide but were later released without bail.
“Our community deserves better, the victim’s family deserve better,” said a tweet by SJPD on Tuesday.
“The taking of someone’s life is the ultimate crime,” SJPD added.
“The system has failed.”
On Tuesday, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo also voiced his frustration.
“I appreciate the purpose of bail reform, but releasing a homicide suspect without bail is outrageous,” Liccardo said.
“The pendulum has swung too far, and it’s our neighborhoods that endure the most crime that suffer as a result.”
Over the last decade, SJPD has relied heavily on overtime, as the department continues to face significant understaffing.
According to a March report released by the city auditor, SJPD’s overtime hours increased 300% over the last 10 years and accounted for 10% of the department’s total budget.
The department has dealt with low staffing numbers over the last 20 years, the lowest staffing numbers coming in 2016-2017 with only 1,107 budgeted positions.
Additionally, the department has gone through significant changes in the last year — most notably was the departure of Chief Eddie Garcia last December.
The March report revealed that layoffs and reductions in budgeted staffing during the Great Recession along with high numbers of resignations and retirements in subsequent years, resulted in a decline in the number of active sworn officers.
The city budgeted for 1,358 sworn staff in 2001 but as it stands that number has decreased to 1,157 officers in 2020-2021.
According to the report, although the department has begun to grow again, the department’s police force is overall less experienced than it was 10 years ago.
Despite SJPD’s understaffing challenges, the city is recording less homicides in 2021 — 23 of the 30 homicides this year have already been solved.
“We believe having a contingent of pro-active officers helped curb the homicide numbers this year,” said SJPD Sergeant Christian Camarillo.
“We are seizing firearms, many ghost guns, at an alarming rate. Every illegally possessed gun we seize prevents a potential violent crime, like homicide,” Camarillo added.
“We also want to acknowledge the community’s involvement and partnerships we have formed to help solve many of these incidents. We rely on witnesses and cooperation to solve and prevent many crimes.”