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Morgan Hill
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January 22, 2021

Crime is down in Morgan Hill, but challenges are up

While some types of crime are on the rise in Morgan Hill in the last year, the 2016 MHPD Annual Report shows the city remains safe, as the most serious categories of offenses are in decline.And while Morgan Hill, like other cities and counties in California, is challenged by recent state reforms that make it harder for local jurisdictions to keep potentially violent suspects in check, Police Chief David Swing said the local department is making strides in keeping the community safe by increasing engagement with the public and being more proactive in identifying criminals and preventing threats.“The report illustrates the work being done, and the quality and quantity of work being done by the men and women in this department, and I’m very proud and honored to be able to lead them,” Swing said.The latest MHPD Annual Report was distributed to the public last week. The document gives an overview of what federal authorities classify as “part 1” crimes—which as a whole are decreasing in Morgan Hill—and it lists some of the department’s accomplishments, new initiatives and other statistics.Part 1 crimes “are defined as offenses that are more serious crimes by nature and/or volume,” the report states. These include theft, vehicle theft, burglary and violent crimes such as homicide and assault. In Morgan Hill, theft makes up the highest category (49 percent, or 418 incidents) of all Part 1 crimes, followed by assault (22 percent). Burglary and vehicle theft each account for 13 percent of the local Part 1 volume. Robbery makes up about 3 percent of the total, or 21 incidents. There were no homicides in 2016, and three reported incidents of rape.  Most cities in Santa Clara County, including Morgan Hill, have seen a decrease in Part 1 crimes when 2016 totals are compared to those of 2015, the report states.“We enjoy a relatively low crime rate in Morgan Hill,” Swing said. “Our residents are served by a group of dedicated professionals, many of whom live in South County—so they have a personal commitment” to local safety.However, Swing added it is “concerning” to see increases in residential burglaries, which are also on the rise in other Bay Area cities. These incidents are up to 111 in 2016 from 100 in 2015, but are down from a peak of 164 incidents in 2013.Another growing trend in Morgan Hill is the recovery of firearms from criminal suspects, Swing said. So far in 2017, officers have confiscated 11 guns as evidence during traffic stops or searches. That’s on pace to significantly surpass the 19 firearms recovered in 2015, and 18 confiscated in 2016. In 2014, MHPD officers recovered seven firearms from “people arrested for other crimes.”“Clearly, the increased presence of firearms is a real threat to our community, and to our officers’ safety,” Swing said.And in yet another growing trend, more suspects arrested in Morgan Hill are from other communities, Swing said. In 2016, he said more than half the people arrested here list their residence in another city.Reforms make it harderSome new state laws approved in recent years make it more difficult for local police departments to reduce crime in California. These include Proposition 47, which was approved by the voters in 2014 and reclassified certain nonviolent felonies as misdemeanors.This requires local police to issue citations for theft suspects, for example, who would have “earned a trip to county jail” before Prop 47 was approved, Swing said.The chief listed two of many examples of how this has impacted safety in Morgan Hill in recent months. In an incident earlier this year, officers contacted a suspect in possession of drugs—once a felony, but a misdemeanor under Prop 47. An officer gave the suspect a ticket and let him go.A little while later, the suspect walked into downtown Morgan Hill, and tried to snatch a purse from a customer who was eating on the outdoor patio of a busy restaurant, Swing said. A witness gave chase to the suspect, and police caught up to him and made an arrest.“Pre-Prop 47, that person having lunch in Morgan Hill doesn’t experience the theft of her purse,” because officers would have detained him for the drug possession, Swing said.Another state law that has allegedly made it easier for criminals is AB109, an effort passed in 2011 to reduce the state’s prison population by moving repeat, nonviolent offenders to county jails. Many law enforcement experts have argued this law has placed more criminals—including some violent ones—back on the streets.Less is known about the impact of Proposition 57, which was just approved by voters in November 2016. This proposition makes it easier for judges to release nonviolent criminals on parole.Swing added that at least one study, conducted by Stanford University, ties a statewide increase in auto thefts to these state reforms. In Morgan Hill, police are seeing more vehicle thefts, as well as stolen cars being used in other crimes.Traffic and other numbersTraffic accidents, often overlooked as a public safety issue, increased by a big margin in Morgan Hill in 2016. Police and emergency personnel responded to 283 accidents in 2016, compared to 209 in both 2014 and 2015, according to the annual report.Strategies to decrease the number of collisions, implemented by the MHPD traffic unit and patrol officers, include “directed traffic enforcement, responding to traffic complaints, community outreach campaigns and safe driving education,” the report reads.The annual report also notes that 50 percent of all police reports filed by MHPD officers result in an arrest. That percentage is higher than Gilroy, Palo Alto, Campbell and other similar size cities in Santa Clara County, according to the report.Engagement is keyThe 2016 annual report touts the effectiveness of some new programs instituted at MHPD in the last couple years.One of these is the reinstatement of the department’s Street Crimes Team, which was approved by the council earlier this year. This unit has just recently sprung back into action, tackling gang activity and violent crime, as well as “quality of life issues throughout the community,” Swing said.The Street Crimes Unit is also addressing local homelessness, Swing added. These officers will work with other local agencies and nonprofits to connect homeless people to services that can eventually move them into long-term housing.The report lists other community engagement efforts MHPD has participated in over the last year: Shop With A Cop, Safe Trick or Treat, Coffee With a Cop (next installment coming up May 19 at Peet’s on Cochrane Road) and vacation home checks performed by the department’s Volunteers In Policing program.

Deportation of Crimean Tatars in XXI century

A tragic date in the history of Crimean Tatar people is drawing close – an anniversary of deportation of Crimean Tatars. This tragedy in its inhumanity can be equated to genocide of the indigenous people of Crimea. By an order of the leader of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin on May 18, 1944 all Crimean Tatars were loaded into freight cars and removed to Central Asia and Siberia. Those who offered resistance and refused to leave their homes were shot in sight, others, who removed in the appointed time, were loaded into barges and flooded in the Black Sea. Totally about 200 thousand Crimean Tatars dead or were deported at that time.

DA crime report shows violence is up, theft is down in county

Violent crime, robbery, burglary and auto theft are on the rise in Morgan Hill over the last year, according to a recent report from Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s office. However, a new countywide initiative to combat these trends—which are mirrored in other nearby cities—is being implemented by the D.A.On April 12, Rosen issued the office’s first report ever that compiles crime data from county law enforcement and judicial agencies, as well as figures from individual cities located within Santa Clara County.Spurred by this 32-page analysis, Rosen’s office will be launching initiatives targeting gun crime and residential burglaries. These efforts are intended to more quickly match weapons and ammunition with the criminals who used them, and to take serial home burglary gangs off the streets, according to DA’s Office staff.“Through a more data-driven approach to crime, our county law enforcement partners will be able to better utilize their limited resources for efficient and effective crime fighting,” Rosen said. “This recommitment to fighting crime with the latest and most comprehensive data will strengthen our collaboration for years to come.”The crime data analysis, titled “Crime in Santa Clara County,” details a historically safe county facing new criminal challenges—namely residential burglaries and a recent spike in violent crime—with a declining number of officers to address them, summarizes a press release on the report.The DA’s new Weapon Initiative will increase staffing at the DA’s Crime Laboratory in order to speed up the processing of guns and bullet casings collected as evidence in crimes. Rosen expects this effort to lead to “more arrests, and more prosecutions.”To combat residential burglaries, the DA’s Crime Strategies Unit will partner with local police task forces to identify and prosecute burglary crews. The DA’s report notes that a small number of “prolific burglars” are responsible for a large portion of the residential burglaries in the county each year.The DA’s Crime Strategies Unit uses data analysis to improve officials’ understanding of crime and the prosecution of crime in the county, according to the press release. The CSU shares that intelligence with local police departments, other units in the DA’s office and the public to help solve crimes and “promote fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.”The numbersThe recent trend of declining property crime and rising violent crime mirrors that of the nation as a whole, according to the report. Gun cases in particular have risen slowly, and slightly, in Santa Clara County in the last five years, from 974 in 2012 to 982 in 2016. Gun cases are defined as gun-related crimes (629 in 2016) and crimes with a gun enhancement (353 in 2016).The DA’s report also contains a number of charts and tables illustrating different incidents of crime and changes in each of the county’s cities. In Morgan Hill, three categories of crimes increased by double digits from 2015 to 2016: violent crime (15 percent increase), aggravated assault (16 percent), robbery (20 percent), burglary (11 percent) and auto theft (3 percent).Property crimes in general in Morgan Hill dropped by 12 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to the report.

Election: Three approved ballot propositions to help schools

With the passing of Propositions 55, 51 and 58 in the Nov. 8 election, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson commended voters for helping to improve California’s education system.

Election: Half-cent sales tax will fund transportation upgrades

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Agency’s Measure B, a half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements, surpassed the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

Election: Measure S wins by a landslide

The City of Morgan Hill’s long-standing growth control policy was never under threat of dying at the polls Nov. 8, as Measure S was resoundingly supported by 77 percent of those who cast ballots.

Crime and courts: Hearing on 2015 murder, domestic violence at the park

Hearing for 2015 murder suspects delayed againThe preliminary hearing for two young men accused of murdering Morgan Hill resident Cody Flores in 2015 was delayed yet again, according to authorities.Suspects Chase Benoit, 22, and Spencer Smith, 22—both of Morgan Hill—were scheduled to appear in court at the Hall of Justice in San Jose Sept. 19. However, the preliminary hearing—where the judge will determine if there is enough evidence against the suspects to go to trial—was continued to Oct. 3, according to Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney David Pandori.Smith and Benoit are accused of stabbing Flores to death in a field in east Morgan Hill May 31, 2015, according to authorities. Both suspects were arrested shortly after Flores’ death, and have remained in custody on a murder charge since then.The stabbing happened near the intersection of Diana Avenue and Ringle Drive, according to police.The suspects pleaded not guilty at a previous hearing.The D.A.’s office and Sheriff’s investigators have revealed few details about the late-night stabbing incident and the suspects’ possible motive. The court file on the case, which is held at the clerk’s office in San Jose, does not contain police reports or other narrative of the incident.Pandori expects the Oct. 3 preliminary hearing to conclude as scheduled.Driver accidentally collides with post officeNobody was injured when an elderly woman accidentally drove her car into the front window of the Morgan Hill Post Office Sept. 23, according to police.The vehicle, a four-door sedan, was parked in a designated spot just in front of the front doors of the post office, located at 16600 Monterey Road, when the woman accidentally drove into the glass panels, MHPD Cpl. Scott Martin said. The vehicle was not moving at a high rate of speed at the time of the impact, which resulted in a shattered glass window panel and damage to a planter outside the post office.No injuries were reported, and there is no suspicion that drugs or alcohol were involved, Martin said.Woman, 30, arrested on suspicion of domestic violencePolice arrested a 30-year-old woman on suspicion of domestic violence after someone reported a couple fighting at the Morgan Hill Community Park Sept. 23, police said.Morgan Hill police officers responded to a call about 2 p.m. reporting a man and woman were involved in a scuffle at the public park on West Edmundson Avenue, MHPD Cpl. Scott Martin said. When officers arrived they located the couple in the parking lot next to the Community Park tennis courts.The male victim suffered non-life threatening injuries during the fight, and declined medical treatment, Martin said.The female suspect was booked at Santa Clara County Jail on suspicion of domestic violence, police said.

Police warn residents about recent property crime incidents

Morgan Hill police have responded to a number of property crimes in recent days—including a home invasion robbery—and are cautioning residents to keep their doors and windows locked.At 9:33 a.m. March 14, police responded to the 17000 block of Rosemary Circle on a report of a home invasion, according to a press release from Morgan Hill Police Department.Officers arrived and spoke with the victims, who said two suspects entered the home and demanded they open the safe, police said. The suspects said they had a weapon, but the suspects never brandished it.The suspected robbers got away with an undisclosed amount of cash and property, according to police. Neither victim was hurt during the incident.The victims described the robbers as Hispanic males, police said. One was about five feet, three inches tall and about 140 pounds. He was wearing a black mask which covered the bottom half of his face and spoke with a Spanish accent.The other suspect was described as about five feet, four inches tall and about 150 pounds, police said. He was wearing a black ski mask, a black hoodie and dark pants. He also spoke with a Spanish accent per the victims.The suspects may have been seen leaving the area in a dark silver colored vehicle, police said. Police are looking for neighbors in the area who might have video surveillance footage to assist in the investigation.Then at 9:15 a.m. March 11, a resident on the 400 block of Cascades Court reported a suspect was attempting to break into her residence using a pry tool, according to MHPD. The victim said the suspect ran when she opened up the blinds.The suspect was described as a male, about five feet, seven inches tall with a thin build, according to police. The suspect wore a black beanie with openings for the eyes and mouth, a pair of black or blue jeans and a gray sweatshirt.He was last seen running southbound toward Community Park on West Edmundson Avenue, police said. Morgan Hill officers arrived on scene within minutes and were unable to locate the suspect. A neighbor in the area reported seeing a dark colored SUV in the area around the time of the incident.At 6:35 a.m. March 10, a resident on the 17000 block of Tassajara Circle reported seeing a subject in their backyard, according to police. The subject was a dark-skinned male wearing black and gray clothing.  Morgan Hill officers were unable to locate the subject.“The Morgan Hill Police Department wants to take this time to remind our community to lock their windows and doors even when they are home and beware of their surroundings,” police said in the press release.Anyone with information about these incidents can contact MHPD Detective Fernando Del Moral (408) 779-2101.  

Drive-by shooting victim now a suspect in unrelated violent crime spree

In yet another bizarre twist in the ongoing attempt to bring five suspects to trial following the 2011 drive-by shooting that killed 14-year-old Tara Romero, the attorney for one of the suspects had to recuse himself from the case Friday because his office is representing a victim of that shooting who is now a suspect in an unrelated violent crime spree that happened earlier this year in San Jose.