San Jose mayor wants mandatory sex assault reporting by rideshare companies

Just weeks before he leaves office, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo on Thursday proposed a new ordinance that he said will better protect survivors of sexual assault and keep the community safe.

He wants to mandate reporting of those types of crimes by taxi companies, and rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft.

“They’re not sharing it with the one entity that can actually do something about the very real threat posed by the assailant. That’s the police,” said Liccardo.

At a Thursday afternoon news conference, he pointed to statistics showing over 3,600 sexual assaults connected to rideshare companies nationally, from 2018 to 2019.

In the South Bay, the estimate is much smaller, but city leaders say reporting by the companies isn’t mandatory. That prompted multiple in-person meetings with the rideshare companies.

“Their interactions with us made it clear that they were not interested in solving this problem. And because of that, they will continue to be the problem,” said Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen.

The mayor wants an ordinance, passed next year after he’s already left office, that will, among other things, require rideshares and taxis to inform survivors of support services, and contacts with the police department. Also, provide a description of a survivor’s rights, including not responding to police questions. And, notify law enforcement of the assault allegation, survivor, and assailant information, as well as information on any witnesses.

“Mandatory reporting (by rideshare) to law enforcement does not require an investigation by law enforcement. Survivors will always have the final say about their involvement,” said Elle Washburn, the bureau chief of investigation for the San Jose Police Department.

In an emailed statement to KTVU, Uber representatives wrote in part, “We are clear with survivors that contacting police is their choice to make—and if they decide to go to the police, we have dedicated teams ready to support both them and law enforcement. This position is guided by the foremost experts on this issue and by survivors themselves.”

“If the survivor doesn’t get to decide for themselves if and when to involve law enforcement, or to report an assault to law enforcement, that’s taking away choices from survivors,” said Perla Flores of Community Solutions, a South Bay advocacy group.

Added YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley CEO Adriana Caldera, “Victim advocates who work with survivors on a regular basis don’t necessarily believe that mandatory reporting helps survivors. We know it can be incredibly harmful.”

The mayor plans to take his proposed ordinance to the council’s Rules Committee Dec. 6. He expects legal pushback from the rideshare companies and taxi companies. But he’s confident he has the support of the police, some stakeholders, and the incoming administration.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station’s South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter @JesseKTVU and Instagram @jessegontv.

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