Six months have passed since a gunman rained bullets into a crowd at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, killing three and injuring more than a dozen others. The massacre sparked a slew of proposals from Silicon Valley lawmakers trying to curb the gun violence epidemic.
For Councilman Sergio Jimenez, the shooting hit home—he was at the festival with his family when a gunman unleashed a hail of bullets on attendees. A few weeks later, the District 2 council rep asked the San Jose Police Department to gather data on hate crimes over the last five years and share what the agency is doing to address the issue.
On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will present some data in response to that request. According to a report coming up for review this week, 313 reported hate crimes occurred citywide from 2008 to September 2019.
SJPD established its Hate Crime Detail in 1993 to investigate criminal offenses stemming from bias against someone’s race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity or national origin. According to SJPD, 98 percent of reported hate crimes this past decade in San Jose have related to race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
The largest number of reported hate crimes in San Jose came in 2017, when SJPD tracked 45—an uptick from the 19 documented a year prior. In a memo on the data, SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia called the spike “significant,” but noted that a “broader examination” was needed to understand whether it marked some kind of trend.
In early 2017, according to his memo to the council, Garcia said the department re-examined its hate crime policy and reporting process.
“An update to the hate crime policy made it mandatory for supervisors, both sergeants and lieutenants, to take an active role and respond to hate crime investigations and report their findings to the Hate Crime Detail,” Garcia explained. “The Hate Crime Detail provided training to every patrol officer and encouraged them to ask questions regarding hate during their investigations. These changes and proactive assessments have had a profound impact on the number of hate crimes reported to the department.”
But Garcia also cited a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, where a team of researchers reviewing data from 38 jurisdictions found that 53 percent of law enforcement agencies in 2017 saw an increase in reported hate crimes compared to the year prior.
Beyond compiling the necessary data, city officials have also reached out to Santa Clara County leaders about participating in a hate crime task force. The idea—initiated by county Supervisor Cindy Chavez and San Jose Councilwoman Maya Esparza—was also proposed in the aftermath of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting.
“I’m pro gun control, but we have a very real problem of hate speech inciting violence,” Esparza said in August. “There’s a clear link between racism and white nationalist propaganda and some of the violence we’ve seen in the community.”
The county is currently in the early planning stages for the task force.
The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30pm Tuesday inside the council chambers at City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. in San Jose. Click here to read the entire agenda.