As Crime Rises Chief Promotes Neighborhood Watch

San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli also talks about a license plate tracking technology that was critically examined by the Wall Street Journal.


Crime is up in San Leandro and there isn't money to hire more officers, Chief Sandra Spagnoli said at a public forum Tuesday night.

About 50 residents show up to meet her at the San Leandro Senior Center in a room that could have seated five times that many.

The event came a week after the brazen and still unsolved robbery of a Safeway store by a gang of armed gunmen.

And even as the meeting was occurring, armed thugs were staging a series of robberies at the north end of town. Police have four Oakland teens in custody for the latter incident.

How will San Leandro cope?

Spagnoli said the city has 58 neighborhood watch groups. She would like to see that number grow to 100. Organized neighbors who report suspicious incidents can help police deter crime or give them the tips and descriptions they need to make arrests, she said.

Technology is her other ally. She called it a "force multiplier" that allows her to make better use of the roughly 90 officers that the city has had on the force for about a decade.

For instance, San Leandro is in the early stages of predictive policing -- that is, deploying officers based on an analysis of when and where crimes have occurred in the past. Is night or day more dangerous? Where are the crime hotspots?

Spagnoli's policies questioned in a Wall Street Journal article

The public meeting came a few days after San Leandro political activist Mike Katz-Lacabe appeared in a Wall Street Journal article and took Spagnoli to task for using a different technology: random videotapingly car license plates and storing these time- and place-stamped records indefinitely.

Katz-Lacabe told the Journal that San Leandro police were creating a database on the movements of citizens who had broken no law, and that the existence of such data files invited the misuse of this information by authorities.

Asked about this by Patch after the public session, Spagnoli made these points:

  1. people have no expectation of privacy when they're out in public so the license-plate capture was not snooping;
  2. access to the data in the police department was tracked and there were penalties, up to and including dismisal, for misuse of such records;
  3. as for keeping such data forever, if there were a child abduction, and an analysis of license plate data could show a pattern of suspicious drivebys on that street, the database could lead to a rescue and arrest, she said. 

What are your thoughts on the city's crime picture? Are you worried about police misusing data like license plate locations?

(Get San Leandro Patch delivered by email. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter @sanleandropatch. Or start your own blog.)

Vernon S. Burton October 05, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Neighborhood watch is joke. Americans are so biased against anyone who doesn't look like them they only are suspicious when they see one of "those people". While they are watching ,shooting or reporting the "other"ne of their peers is ripping them off or worse.
Michael Allen October 05, 2012 at 06:26 PM
That's a fairly ignorant statement... "Americans are XYZ..." Congrats on generalizing the entire nation. Something that looks different from "normal" will not go unnoticed. It's human nature to notice things that are outside of the pattern of an individual's everyday life and there's nothing wrong with that. It's called being observant. What you DO when you see something different is what matters, not the fact that you noticed it. The most effective units in most societies are small community units. Whether it's tenants of an apartment complex, a group of neighbors that generally know each others patterns, knowing when something is out of place is the single best means of being safe. It's basic situational awareness. I would notice if neighbor A was going into neighbor B's garage and carrying out some tools. That doesn't mean a crime happened, it just means I saw something different and if I hear about "missing" items I'll give the info I have. If I know my neighbors and see a car parked on the street in front of their house, I've never seen before, and someone gets out I've never seen before, looks around, walks into their garage taking things out and loading them in the car, yeah, I might call the cops to ask if a patrolman can make contact with them to verify everything is ok. I hope my neighbors do that for me, too. Your statement is non-nonsensical or uneducated at best. I hope you don't live near me.
Tom Abate (Editor) October 05, 2012 at 08:40 PM
From Jim Prola: I think it's only fair to our Police Dept., that you publish the full Part 1(serious crime) statistics showing the last 3 years are the lowest since we gathered the statistics in 1980. (See second PDF attached; put into perspective the recent crime rise is off historic lows).
Thomas Clarke October 06, 2012 at 01:23 AM
The SLPD put out this kind of information without explanation. It is little more than propaganda with a purpose to scare folks. Just look at the numbers, they tell the truth. 2012-2011 through August tells us that January, March and May showed fewer overall Part 1 Crimes in 2012. So much for rising crime. Murders for the same time are down. Rape for the same time is down. Simple Assault for the same time is down. So much for the impact of the SLPD. 2012 January through July is below the average for virtually every year since 1980. More crime. No. More reporting of the crime and less reasonable discussion of it. You bet. Are more cops the solution to the problem? The cops and their apologists are believers that more cops make us safer and fewer cops create crime. Not a surprise that this is all about the increases in taxes requested so we can have more cops. Well the stats reported will not help this at all. More cops more crime is what the numbers tell us over the years. The solution is not more taxes and less income. The solution is community policing, but not as it is done today. Require the cops and the firemen to live in San Leandro. Make the cops pay for their pension. Get to know your neighbors and require them to raise their families in the city they serve. The rest of the arguments are simply untrue and the result of fearmongering, racists and haters of which Patch has a bunch.
Fred Eiger October 06, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Michael, it's from Vernon Burton, so of course it will be an ignorant comment.
Ken Briggs October 06, 2012 at 03:19 AM
we need more police in town and that license plate scanner in use more . hope the police can find my new trailer that got stolen two month ago . but we need most is better courts and better judges.
David October 06, 2012 at 03:53 PM
We "can't afford" more police because they make more than the average pediatrician, psychiatrist, lawyer, CEO, or wealth manager/financial advisor, significantly more than your average scientist, engineer, and college professor in the Bay Area.
Fred Eiger October 06, 2012 at 04:36 PM
And David, they'll be knocking on doors for the next couple weekends demanding that we vote to increase the sales tax, increase property tax, Vote No on 32 and DEMAND that Chris Crow, Jim Prola and Ursula Reed be reelected to pay for their bloated salaries and pensions. Then when it's all over they'll come up with the stupid line of; "well, crime is tied to the economy, so there's not much we as police can do".
Tina October 06, 2012 at 05:37 PM
David, the average cop makes more than all those other professionals...... I have no problem with that. Cops put their life's on the line every day, do the others? Do you? Some pension reform is needed as long as we remember what these men and women risk on a daily basis. Or how about this, next time there's a violent crime call your financial advisor for help.
Fred Eiger October 06, 2012 at 05:42 PM
A clerk at a 7-11 or gas station has a more dangerous job than a Police Officer. These cops knew exactly what the job entailed when they signed up. No one forced them to take the jobs, and there are plenty of guys wanting to fill the positions. So I don't buy this; "they put their life on the line every day"?? What about the security guard's at Wal-Mart or Target? Those guys are the first line of defense against criminal activity, yet they don't get paid what the local police are doing.
David October 06, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Tina, besides many other jobs being much more dangerous (coal miner, fisherman, farmer, cab driver, etc), Bay Area cops make much more than cops in NYC, which has a far higher cost of living. By paying out-sized compensation packages they're putting *OUR* lives and property at risk, because we taxpayers can't afford to have a proper police/population ratio. If we had the *average* number of cops for a town this size, we'd have nearly 200. Just think about that. We could have cops permanently posted on MacArthur, Bancroft, E.14th, downtown/Pelton, Bayfair, all the hot spots, and I bet they wouldn't be so "hot" anymore. Why don't we pay them $1,000,000/year and only have 10?
Ken Briggs October 06, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Fred , I like that story about those two punk 17 year olds that tried to rob the store in the south land and got shot at,and one died thanks to the guy that saw what was going down and had his own gun and permits for it . now the one that is still alive , I bit thats his last time when he does something like that . if kids think that they arebig by useing a gun treat them as big boys put them in jail for awhile .
Fred Eiger October 06, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Exactly. We need an arme citizenry to protect ourselves and keep the peace. No blaming the economy, a bad childhood, low self esteem. We need to restart valuing personal responsibility in this civilization.
Ken Briggs October 07, 2012 at 12:51 AM
as for teachers ,the school board should all go to some of these schools and see the B S the they put up with . if some of these kids that disrupt the class, the teacher shoul be able to kick them outof that class . we only have a few good teachers. lets kept what we got . for the trouble makers in school put them on some work detail.
Marga Lacabe October 07, 2012 at 06:21 AM
And yet, Fred, the Police specifically endorsed Benny Lee against Chris Crow. What could that possibly mean?


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something