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San Diego councilmember pushes back on police union crime claims

The San Diego Police Officers Association says violent crime and murders are on the rise at public parks. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere says a San Diego councilmember claims she was unfairly targeted by the organization for the spike.

The San Diego Police Officers Association said something needs to be done about what their data shows are an increasing number of murders and violent crime at city parks.

Police Union President Jared Wilson said the spike is happening in all corners of the city.

“On Friday night there was the 12th homicide in a San Diego city park in the last year. And the data shows that is a drastic uptick in murders at city parks,” he said.

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Jacob Aere
A table and bench area remains empty as kids play basketball at Teralta Park in City Heights, May 3, 2022.

In a news release, the police union singled out City Council pro Tem President Monica Montgomery Steppe who is the head of the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee. The union said she wants to divert police funding.

The councilmember said the statement "articulates a fallacy" of the work her committee has done.

According to Montgomery Steppe, a lack of resources for communities south of Interstate 8 has contributed to the cycle of violence in those neighborhoods.

“Violence is not biological. It has not been solved with over-policing and it has not been solved with more funding,” she said. “And until we address the root causes of violence and crime, we will continue seeing the exact same issues in our city and in our systems.”

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Jacob Aere
A San Diego Police car is parked in front of their union building, May 3, 2022.

Wilson said something has to change. He’s proposing that community policing makes a comeback in San Diego.

“Preventing crime is possible in our public spaces. That's where police officers can interact with the community,” he said. “They can do those types of foot patrols, they can do those community policing, but we’re not able to do that with the staffing that we have. And that's why we're raising a red flag and asking for help.”

Montgomery Steppe encouraged the police union to present their solutions at her committee’s June meeting.

“I have always believed that we need our police department. We need a law-enforcement function, a traditional law-enforcement function. But there are other ways to reduce violence and to reduce crime in our communities,” she said.

Montgomery Steppe proposed initiatives such as funding more youth and community programs, adding street lights and taking down graffiti to address the problem.

She said those efforts will enforce “crime prevention by environmental design,” and reduce violent crimes and homicides.