SAN JOSE, Calif. - The start of the holiday shopping season is a little more than a week away. As a result, South Bay officials will use state grant money to combat retail theft.
"The only thing you should be worried about is getting along with your in-laws and not overcooking that turkey. Not retail theft," said Mayor Matt Mahan, D-San Jose.
City and Santa Clara County officials teamed up and will use the one-time grants to increase police patrols and use technology to keep shoppers and merchants safer for the holidays.
"San Jose is the wrong place to bring your retail theft operation," said San Jose Police Department Assistant Chief Paul Joseph.
The police department was one of 38 out of a pool of 114 law agencies to receive a grant, totaling $8.5 million to combat retail crime. Officials said from 2021-22, these types of crimes saw a 25% increase. The impact cost businesses billions of dollars state-wide.
"A person came in and smashed my door at seven in the morning. And took liberties with my property and my belongings," said small business owner Chris Patterson-Simmons.
Added Rachel Michelin, president & CEO of the California Retailers Association: "It does have and take a toll on our employees who are in the stores, and also our customers who are trying to have that shopping experience."
San Jose police officials will use their grant money to increase officer foot and bicycle patrols in business corridors and at malls for quicker response times. They will purchase 300 additional license plate reader cameras to identify suspects if there is a crime.
"The objective for the grant funding is to bring in the additional resources needed to curtail retail theft, and target these criminal networks," said Joseph.
The Santa Clara County District Attorney’s office also received a grant, for $2 million. That office created a major crime drug trafficking team, which also focuses on combating organized retail theft.
"We’ve already succeeded, including prosecuting five individuals for committing smash and grabs at a local jewelry store. And an organized group hitting a major cosmetics retailer," said Jay Boyarsky, the chief assistant district attorney.
Some shoppers at Westfield Valley Fair Mall said it’s about time local and county officials got tough on retail theft, as they watched the gathering of officials. That increased toughness comes through a combination of more people power, blended with additional technology, to keep shoppers and retailers safe this holiday season.
"By focusing on these hotspots, we can prevent criminal activities and provide safer conditions for both business owners and customers," said Jesus Flores, of the Latino Business Foundation of Silicon Valley.
In addition to the grants, Mahan says the city doubled police officer hires, expanded foot and bike patrols in key business corridors, has a "zero tolerance" policy for open-air drug sales and use, and has cracked down on sideshows.
San Jose police said the additional patrols will be on station, "…as quickly as possible."
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Twitter, @jessegontv