Chairs in Northside Library’s community room formed a big circle on the evening of April 6 when Santa Clara residents participated in Chat with the Chief, a meeting with Police Chief Mike Sellers. Bart Carlee asked about what the department is doing to prevent graffiti. Hosam Haggag asked about citizen safety and cultural and religious sensitivity training for officers. Kathy Watanabe asked about benefits of installing surveillance cameras at Rivermark Plaza, where car break–ins have been reported. Roger Ramirez asked about reported methods of car break–ins.
“I started doing these chats about a year–and–a–half ago,” says Sellers, who has worked in the Santa Clara Police Department for close to 30 years. “The chats give me an opportunity to meet the citizens with no real agenda but to hear from them about what their concerns may be, and to have some interaction.”
During the meeting, Sellers showed a chart detailing the number of recorded city crimes from 2012 to 2014. He got up and literally knocked on wood when he announced there hasn’t been a homicide in the city in the last few years.
“However we have seen an increase in crime, primarily in property crime,” Sellers says. “There are some factors that play into it. One is called AB 109, which is realignment. That was when Governor Brown was forced to reduce the number of prisoners in our state prison system, and what they basically did was push either for the early release of prisoners and/or they pushed them down to county. So normally, you’d go to state prison for certain crimes, you’re now spending your time in county jail or being released much earlier. That’s AB 109; that [is] a factor, I believe. Just recently, voters passed Proposition 47, which reduced the number of felony charges, primarily narcotic and some property crimes, to misdemeanors. I think that has probably a little bit to do with it also.”
Sellers answered all questions and educated the audience on how to protect their property from theft and burglary.
“Probably 98 to 99 percent of the time when a car clout happens, or a theft on a vehicle happens, locked car or unlocked… there is always something visible to the suspect. Always, every single time, there’s either a briefcase, a computer, a cell phone, a GPS system, something that is in view,” Sellers says. “The detective can only think of two cases over the last three years where somebody actually took something out of a trunk…We have the neighborhood watch program … If you see something, say something. Please call us if you see anybody suspicious.
“What’s more important is that we have to harden the target, we have to harden your household,” Sellers continues. “We have to make sure you lock all the doors in your house. You’ve got to make sure your shrubs are cut in a way so people can’t hide behind them. You have to provide enough lighting around.
“If you’re fortunate to have some surveillance cameras on your front porch, that helps as a deterrent. If you have alarm stickers on your window, that helps. All these things help. Not to say they’ll prevent [crime], but it helps. Same thing with the car burglaries or the car clouts…harden the target. Remove the stuff out of your car.”