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South Bay Neighbors Cut Crime Combining Old-School Watchfulness With High-Tech Surveillance

SAN JOSE (KPIX) - First-year crime statistics are in for a surveillance camera pilot program in south San Jose that has blanketed several neighborhoods with nearly a thousand high resolution cameras.

"We often say we're a neighborhood watch on steroids," said Issa Ajlouny, founder of Safety Advocate For Empowering Residents, or SAFER San Jose, a non-profit organization.

SAFER San Jose secured the funding, approvals, and oversaw the installation of the security systems in 300 homes near Highways 101 and 85. The four square mile area is bounded by Bernal Road, Highway 101, Metcalf Road, and the boundary of Santa Teresa County Park.

The cameras were provided free of charge, and funded with a $600,000 settlement with Calpine.

A pair of 4K cameras and a commercial grade license plate reader were installed at each home, and set up to record footage of the street. The video is stored locally on a hard drive inside the home, and can only be accessed by the homeowner. Participants are strongly encouraged to register the system with San Jose Police. Each system comes with a five-year warranty. Numerous signs warn visitors that "Community Video Cameras in Use."

"It's warning everybody that, hey we got cameras. They're registered with San Jose Police, and we're gonna get you," said Ajlouny.

SJPD released the crime data for the region


Southern Division August 2019 – August 2020 = 99,334 events

Southern Division August 2020 – August 23, 2021 = 88,376 events


CAD: Location Boundaries August 2019 – August 2020 = 3,061 events

CAD: Location Boundaries August 2020 – August 23, 2021 = 2,730 events


Proactive Self-initiated Priority 5 & 6 August 2019 – August 2020 = 25,544 events

Proactive Self-initiated Priority 5 & 6 August 2020 – August 23, 2021 = 20,943 events


Proactive Self-initiated Priority 5 & 6 August 2019 – August 2020 = 875 events

Proactive Self-initiated Priority 5 & 6 August 2020 – August 23, 2021 = 730 events

SJPD also "potentially" submitted 112 cases to the Santa Clara County District Attorney's Office, from within the camera boundary region, for incidents between August 2019 to August 23, 2021.

In the first year of the pilot program, within the camera boundaries, calls for service decreased 11%, and proactive events decreased 16%.

"Criminals talk to criminals. And it's great when they see that when they come south of Bernal, their face and car (image) is gonna be captured," said Ajlouny.

Jeff Rosen, Santa Clara County DA, stopped short of directly attributing the decrease in police activity to the surveillance camera network.

"I think that's really hard to say at this point, whether it's causation or correlation. But I certainly think that when you have a community like this, that organizes itself and says, 'We don't want people committing crimes here, we're going to work with our police department,' that you will see a reduction in crimes," said Rosen.

"I couldn't say that the cameras necessarily contributed to any change in the statistics. What I can tell you is that the cameras are very beneficial. That evidence that we obtain from privately-owned cameras can be helpful to solve a crime, where there are no witnesses," said Paul Joseph, San Jose Police Assistant Chief.

Joseph added that as word spreads of the camera network, it can serve as a deterrent.

"Someone that's going to commit a burglary might look at a camera in a neighborhood, or a neighborhood with many cameras, and decide to go somewhere else. Or decide, perhaps not to commit the crime at all," said Joseph.

Rosen praised the quality of the images from the cameras, and underscored the importance of "powerful" video evidence.

"These cameras have helped us solve a lot of crimes that we would not have been able to solve otherwise," said Rosen. "If a perpetrator sees himself on the camera, and realizes the jury is going to see the same thing, it's in the perpetrator's best interest to plead guilty early and try to get on with their life."

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