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:
- people have no expectation of privacy when they're out in public so the license-plate capture was not snooping;
- access to the data in the police department was tracked and there were penalties, up to and including dismisal, for misuse of such records;
- 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?