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San Bernardino Police turn to tech to help prevent homicides




San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, takes a question during a press conference near the site of yesterday's mass shooting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif. A heavily armed husband and wife dressed for battle opened fire on a holiday banquet for his co-workers Wednesday, killing multiple people and seriously wounding others in a precision assault, authorities said. Hours later, they died in a shootout with police. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan, takes a question during a press conference near the site of yesterday's mass shooting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif. A heavily armed husband and wife dressed for battle opened fire on a holiday banquet for his co-workers Wednesday, killing multiple people and seriously wounding others in a precision assault, authorities said. Hours later, they died in a shootout with police. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Chris Carlson/AP

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It's been a tough few years for the city of San Bernardino.

Five years ago, the city was mired in debt. So much so that it was forced to declare bankruptcy.

Then, late in 2015,  a mass shooting left 14 dead, 22 seriously wounded, and an entire nation in shock.

Now, individual homicides in the city have soared to levels not seen in two decades, leading to headlines that claimed San Bernardino's murder rate was higher than Chicago's.

That has officials from the Inland Empire city looking to another California town as a model for change. 

Five years ago, the city of Oakland began a new policing program designed to combat homicides, called Ceasefire. It combines community policing techniques with high-tech data gathering. And it seems to have worked: The murder rate in Oakland has dropped by 30 percent.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan hopes the program will work in his town, too. He spoke Tuesday with Take Two. 

Highlights

Give us a sense of the situation in San Bernardino in regards to crime — specifically, homicide. 

As many people know, the city of San Bernardino has struggled for many years with crime issues, dating back to long before my career started — dating back to the '80s, when the city started seeing a significant increase in crime, specifically violent crime, centered around gangs and drugs as the two primary factors. And that's never really stopped. 

During the early '90s, it reached its height. I think during some of the years in the early '90s we had upwards of 80 homicides a year, and last year we had a little bit of a spike. We hit 62 last year. 

When it comes to putting Ceasefire in action, what do you have to do? What will this look like in practice?

I'm a little concerned that people think that this is going to be an instant switch — that we're gonna employ these people, and we're going to start seeing some sudden reductions in crime.

The reality is that, during the opening months and even the majority of the first year, it really is about setting up the program and building the foundation for the program and doing a lot of data analysis to understand what those driving factors in violent crime are. 

We know a lot of them. We certainly have our way of doing analytical work, but they look at it in a slightly different way where they try to identify the specific people, based on intelligence work and crime analysis data. Then, they build a program around addressing those particular people through a variety of things, whether it's roundtable-type things to put them into a scared-straight kind of situation or doing direct law enforcement work, targeting those particular people. 

By specifically trying to target certain people that may be the driver for these things, aren't you saying, in a way, 'Look, we're worried that you might be doing something wrong in the future?'

In most cases, we see people that already have an extensive history with law enforcement and with the criminal justice system by the time they're reaching violent-crime status. These are not people who are new to the system. 

Quite often they're on parole or probation or some status like that. We'll sit them down and say, "Hey, listen: you're headed down this path, and all the information and all the data and all the historical information we have available to us tell us that you're heading down the road to being involved in a violent crime involving a gun and you gotta stop. You gotta get off that train, and you gotta figure out another way." 

Click on the blue bar above to listen to the entire interview.

(Questions and answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.)