Santa Clara County officials beef up law enforcement presence after Gilroy shooting
Photo courtesy of Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department.

In the wake of a shooting rampage in Gilroy that left three people dead, Santa Clara County law enforcement officials are ramping up security at public events — including the upcoming county fair and San Jose jazz festival.

Sheriff’s deputies patrolling the fairgrounds in South San Jose when the 75th Annual Santa Clara County Fair opens Thursday will be vigilant as always, officials said. But their presence may be more conspicuous than in past years — and their ranks will certainly be on higher alert — after a gunman cut through a fence at the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Sunday and opened fire on the crowd.

Some of the deputies working the county fair this week will be the same who rushed to the scene to assist police in the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting.

On Monday, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese issued a letter to County Executive Jeff Smith asking for a “confidential memorandum” to supervisors detailing the county’s safety plans for the fair.

Cortese said he wanted to be able to reassure his constituents that the county was doing everything in its power to maintain public safety.

“People need to feel safe,” Cortese said in a Tuesday morning interview. “And they need to know that we’ve done our due diligence.”

In that spirit, the Sheriff’s office issued a public statement about beefed up patrols.

“In preparation for the upcoming Santa Clara County Fair, the Sheriff’s Office is working in collaboration with the County Executive’s Office and Board of Supervisors to provide an increased level of security for all attendees,” the statement reads. “It is our continuing mission to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the residents and visitors of our County. The Sheriff’s Office encourages everyone to come out and enjoy their time at this fun, family-friendly event.”

Fair spokesman Dan Orloff said extra security is especially important in Santa Clara County, which has weather temperate enough to accommodate year-round outdoor festivals that attract large crowds. The culture of the area is largely defined by those gatherings he said, arguing that as part of the social fabric they deserve protection from outside threats.

“Our quality of life is measured by public gatherings like these,” Orloff said. “So it’s really important that they be safe and secure.”

By Tuesday afternoon, Smith made his own announcement about security at the event, encouraging the public to attend despite heightened fears following the Gilroy shooting.

“We have reviewed security plans for the County Fair and are working with the Sheriff’s Office to increase our vigilance and security measures this year,” Smith said in a statement. “We hope the community will attend the County Fair and enjoy all the activities the fair has to offer.”

Meanwhile, the organizers of next month’s 30th Annual San Jose Jazz Summer Fest say they too are working with city officials to ensure public safety at that event in light of the shooting in Gilroy.

“Since Sunday’s tragedy in Gilroy we have been in close communication with the Mayor’s Office and the Chief of Police’s Office regarding additional measures that will be implemented this year,” said San Jose Jazz Executive Director Brendan Rawson. “We recognize that we are in a new era with new threats to commuity events such as ours, and we are taking the necessary steps to make sure that all attendees will be extremely safe at Summer Fest.”

San Jose Police Department spokesman Sgt. Enrique Garcia confirmed the department is “working with event planners on the security measures needed to staff the event,” adding the department “(does) not provide specifics regarding the number of police officers and/or tactics that are operational in nature.”

The police spokesman said Chief Eddie Garcia has instructed the department to view all crowded public gatherings through the lens of a potential mass casualty attack like the shooting in Gilroy — and its officers “will be prepared with a high level, extensive operational plan,” if a tragedy like that strikes in San Jose.

Contact Adam F. Hutton at [email protected] or follow @adamfhutton on Twitter.

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