California city reports spike in school burglaries

The coronavirus pandemic may be keeping overall crime rates low and people indoors, but one city in California is reporting a spike in burglaries at schools shuttered by stay-at-home orders.

The San Jose Police Department said Monday that overall crime in the Northern California city dropped by 31 percent compared with figures from 2019, with violent crimes down 25 percent and a 32 percent drop in property crimes.

“We are all concerned the longer this shelter-in-place goes on, the more we may see increases,” San Jose Police Chief Eddie Garcia told KTVU. “For now, I’m very pleased and proud of the city, of where are numbers are at.”

But data from police obtained by KTVU showed that several schools in the city were burglarized between March 15 to April 11, after stay-at-home orders went into place.

The Clyde Fischer Middle School in San Jose has been hit by thieves three times since the district implemented distance learning March 16.

In each incident, the school windows were broken and thieves rummaged through the front office. Principal George Kleidon told KTVU on Monday that virtual reality sets and random computer equipment were taken.

“Is it because they know schools are closed and vacant at this time, meaning schools are more vulnerable?” he said Monday.

Overall, school burglaries are up in the city compared with the same time period last year, rising from two in 2019 to 13 during the same period in 2020.

San Jose police said that officers will be patrolling schools more often, and will also have a more visible presence in school parking lots.

As the virus spreads throughout the country, major cities such as New York and Chicago reported drops in crime. In Los Angeles, 2020 key crime statistics were consistent with last year’s figures until the week of March 15, then dropped by 30 percent.

In other cities, law enforcement officials said some crimes may be fueled by shutdown orders.

Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said aggravated assaults are up 10 percent in the last three weeks, and half of those were domestic violence, a significantly higher proportion than normal.

The San Jose Police chief said Monday he hopes the downward trend will continue after the pandemic, but knows when the order is lifted numbers won’t stay low. He also expressed concern that the uptick in domestic violence cases wasn’t greater, since those crimes often go unreported.

“We have to ensure that our survivors, people being victimized at home, know there are resources, and reach out for help if they need to,” the police chief told KTVU.

After thousands of nonviolent inmates were released from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, law enforcement officials worried about what will happen when restrictions lift.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told FOX11 last week he was most concerned about the thousands of former inmates now on the streets.

“What’s going to happen is, some of them are not going to go back to court, they’re gonna go to warrants to speak, for failure to appear,” he said last Monday. “People who are not in jail are losing their jobs, much less those that didn’t have a job, to begin with, and are out on the streets, we’re now adding to the mix, it’s uncharted territory that we’re headed into.”

As of Tuesday, there are 33,866 cases of COVID-19 in California with at least 1,229 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.