Report: gun violence costs Santa Clara County over $72M annually

SAN JOSE (CBS SF/BCN) – A new report found that gun violence costs Santa Clara County an estimated $72.5 million a year due to impact on services like police, emergency, medical and criminal justice agencies.

Initially requested in 2019 after the fatal Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, the county Board of Supervisors approved the final report on Tuesday to move forward on adopting an action plan. The go-ahead comes after supervisors asked for more violence prevention strategies during the report’s interim presentation in May. 

More than half of the costs came from assault and homicide cases alone, according to researchers. 

Paired with statistics, the report also includes seven recommendations for the county to take on, including strengthening policy, advocacy and public awareness; increasing protection in an equitable lens; and establishing a gun data workgroup.

These statistics prove that “violence is a symptom, not a disease,” said Dr. Sara Cody, director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department and whose team collaborated with the organizations Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation and Prevention Institute to conduct the study. 

“The solution to gun violence requires more than just legislative or criminal justice action; it requires a multi-sectoral, systemwide response that includes thoughtful and transformative partnerships with the communities most deeply affected,” Cody wrote in a letter to residents. 

Moving forward, the county public health department will continue a community outreach process and map out neighborhood-specific strategies through November, as well as propose pre-existing resource options and budgeting suggestions to the Board of Supervisors by January.  

Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who sought the report, said in a news conference Monday that seeking understanding is essential to adequately addressing gun violence. 

“There aren’t a lot of roadmaps at a local level to do this kind of research. I want to say a very special thank you to Dr. Sara Cody and her team and we are in good hands with our district attorney’s office,” Chavez said. 

County leaders like Chavez have also been in talks of banning unserialized, untraceable firearms, called “ghost guns,” following suit of California cities like San Francisco and San Diego who have initiated similar policies.  

According to county data, the amount of ghost guns recovered during criminal investigations rose from four in 2015 to 293 in 2021.

Marisa McKeown, Santa Clara County’s supervising deputy district attorney for the office’s Crime Strategies Unit, warned that those who even threaten gun violence will face prosecution and be barred from possessing a gun. 

“So if you’re thinking of arming yourself and you are a prohibited person, this is the wrong county for you,” McKeown said. “We are all committed to stopping the next shooting because we’ve had too much cost — not just economic, but also emotional and social costs in this county because of gun violence. And enough is enough.”   

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