Cop talk: Captain invested in downtowners

San Jose Police Department (SJPD) Capt. David Santos has been the Central Division Captain since May 2018, continuously moving up the ranks of SJPD after starting as a reserve office in 1993 and going full time in 1995.

Santos has previously been assigned as a field training officer, academy training officer and academy coordinator, and to the Special Operations Metro Unit.  Promoted to sergeant in 2005, he worked in patrol, Sexual Assaults Investigations Unit, and the Office of the Chief, Research and Development Unit.  In 2010, he was promoted to lieutenant and worked as a commander of the Patrol Watch, Bureau of Field Operations Administrative Unit, Sexual Assaults Investigations Unit, Personnel and Backgrounds Unit, and the Training Division. 

In December 2017, he was assigned as Acting Captain of the Central (Downtown) Division.  Downtown Dimension caught up with him to discuss his job keeping downtown safe.  His comments have been edited for brevity.

What is your personal and professional history with 
downtown?

I have worked downtown on several occasions throughout my career.  My very first assignment as a police officer was on the downtown team.  I frequently returned as a patrol officer and also worked much of my time in the Metro Unit downtown.  As a patrol lieutenant, I worked all of my time in the Central Division.

On the personal side, my mom is a downtown resident. 

The downtown is the showcase of the city.  When people come from out of the area, they want to see what our downtown has to offer.  Often people are coming to San Jose for business, to tour San Jose State University, or to go to a sporting event at SAP Center or Avaya Stadium, or some event at one of our other downtown venues. 

It is important that we have a safe and inviting downtown to keep San Jose as a desirable destination. 

What is your earliest memory of downtown?

I remember shopping at the old Woolworth’s store (on First Street) with my parents.  The toy department was downstairs.  I spent my early childhood in San Jose and can remember going to Winchell’s Doughnuts, which was located where City Hall is today.

From a policing / public safety perspective, what are downtown’s strengths?

I think one of the strengths of the downtown is the relationship the businesses and neighborhood associations have with the city and keeping the lines of communications open. 

The better the residents and businesses downtown interact with each other, the safer things will be.  They will get to know each other and that means they will know when things are out of place or something is not as it should be.  They can contact other residents or businesses to find out if everything is fine, and if not, they can call police to look into the matter.  Without getting to know each other, people usually do not want to get involved.  If we all know each other, we all want to take care of each other.

From your perspective as Central Division captain, what are downtown’s biggest challenges? What might downtowners do to help police with these issues?

One of the biggest challenges facing downtown is the rapid change that is happening all around us.  There are new buildings popping up right before our eyes.  New businesses coming in, BART coming in the future.  In just a few short years, I believe downtown will be an entirely different place.

Our downtown is no different than the downtowns in other major cities.  We have crime issues stemming from homelessness, drug use, and the simple fact that there are a lot of people located in a densely populated area.  We also have the bit of crime associated with our night life.  

However, I would point out that we are the 10th largest city in the United States, we are absolutely one of the safest, and we are able to do that with arguably the smallest police force out of all of them!

There are a few key things people can do to help:

  • Report crimes as you see them.  We can’t work on problems if we don’t know they are happening.  As we rebuild our department, we will put our resources where they are most needed and part of that is determined by where crimes are reported. 
  • When you are walking around, keep your heads out of your phones and look at your surroundings.  There might be times that just crossing the street may save you from walking into something bad and becoming a victim.
  • Personal safety is up to you.  Officers will come and help as soon as possible, but we are probably not going to be there at the exact time that something is happening.  We need you to provide us as much information as possible to help us catch those committing crimes.

When off-duty, what in downtown do you enjoy?

I come to eat downtown with the family.  Some of our favorite restaurants are downtown. 

Most of my time off is spent with my family.  I am a cheer dad, so often I am traveling around for a cheer competition.  If not, I really am a stay-at-home kind of guy.  I spend more time at work than I do with my family so when it comes to time off, I am usually just at home.