Fair barometer for Gilroy’s crime rate

Should Gilroy’s crime rate be compared to crime rates in other
Santa Clara County cities, or should residents compare their safety
to demographically more similar cities, such as Watsonville,
Salinas or Hollister?
Should Gilroy’s crime rate be compared to crime rates in other Santa Clara County cities, or should residents compare their safety to demographically more similar cities, such as Watsonville, Salinas or Hollister?

The answer is both.

Gilroy, while striving to maintain its rural heritage, is also changing. It’s becoming a retail center – often magnets for crime – and a bedroom community for nearby Silicon Valley workers.

The collision of demographics means that all the comparisons are fair to make and important to review.

We need our city leaders, our police officials, our school district administrators and our civic groups to ask several hard questions about Gilroy’s high rates of domestic violence, child abuse, forcible rape, violent acts on school property and aggravated assault compared to the rest of Santa Clara County.

While we note that violent crime has been trending downward in Gilroy during the last 10 years – a good thing, to be sure – we also note that trend has been seen statewide, and Gilroy remains above the state average for per capita violent crime.

Much of the credit for the drop in violent crime surely goes to the strong anti-gang efforts put forth by the city and the police department. We commend them for that and encourage those efforts to continue.

But the current situation is not acceptable.

Gilroyans rightly expect that their town should be as safe as any city in Santa Clara County, and that’s just not the case now. High crime rates do little to attract new businesses (read: jobs) and residents to fill the thousands of homes to be built under the residential development ordinance over the next several years.

But the city already spends 80 percent of its general fund on public safety, and it’s difficult to advocate spending even more taxpayers’ dollars there. So what’s the answer?

We think it is cost-effective programs, public-private partnerships and creative thinking. The city should look at parks and recreation programs that can serve double duty – providing sports and hobby opportunities for all Gilroyans while also helping to prevent crime by giving bored youth something worthwhile to do. The city should partner with groups like Community Solutions to tackle the causes of domestic violence and child abuse. The city and police department should work with the school district to find additional ways to prevent violence on school campuses.

The city should find new ways to encourage communities to establish neighborhood watch programs and a culture of zero-tolerance for lawbreakers.

Whether you compare Gilroy to Hollister or Los Gatos is really beside the point. The point is that crime in Gilroy is still a too-frequent occurrence, and we need to cooperate to find ways to further reduce it.

Sadly, we’ll never get to zero crime, but we should all be working together toward that goal.

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