San Jose mayor, police chief take to bike trail touting increased public safety needs

Two of San Jose’s civic leaders, Monday, cycled along the Coyote Creek Trail, in South San Jose. Their trek was designed to draw attention to a need.

"We’ve got to get back to the basics – public safety. Cleaning up the city. Insuring that everyone in San Jose lives indoors. Basic city services," said Mayor Matt Mahan, (D) San Jose.

As part of that push, Mahan laid out groundwork, with each cadence, for his budget initiative to hire more city police officers.

Officials say the current number of 1,173 is too low for a city of over a million people. Their goal is to double the number of officers that are hired.

The city partnered with Valley Water, Jan. 2022, to spend $800,000 to have a handful of officers on bicycles patrol a portion of Coyote Creek Trail.

"You’re gonna face encounters with people who may try to intimidate workers. And things like that. Or you may have dogs out there without leashes. So this just provides a little layer of protection," said Matt Keller, a spokesman for Valley Water. Added San Jose Police Chief Anthony Mata, "They go out, they ride the trail, and provide information -- make contact with individuals there that need our help. Again, to keep our trails safe."

Crime, coupled with unhoused encampments, have made some residents uneasy about enjoying this 32-mile scenic escape.

Two years ago, police investigators say Samuel Torres was killed in the area of the trail, near Wool Creek Drive.

"Our job is to go out there and engage not just our community members in our business district or our residential areas, but also some of these trails," said Capt. Carlos Acosta, from the SJPD Central Division, which has the trail as part of its patrol area.

Officials said they’re recruiting aggressively the next crop of cops, in hopes of increasing officer ranks to 1,400.

The mayor said that’ll have an impact beyond public safety.

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"We also have to be a city that is business friendly. That is safe and clean, so that we can attract jobs, employers, economic activity. Encourage our community to stay in San Jose and spend their consumer dollars here," said Mahan.

The number of businesses, and taxable dollars, are important elements because that’s what will fund the mayor’s proposal.  Mahan believes he can balance competing needs, and get his items pass for implementation in the next budget year, beginning Jul. 1.

City officials estimated it would cost $5M to double the amount of police officers the mayor would like to hire.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv