SAN JOSE -- Burglary rates have been spiking all over San Jose, and it escalated in the public's consciousness Wednesday after a city leader publicized the theft of a young girl's puppy in a home burglary.
Marissa Mabanag, 10, has offered the contents of her piggy bank to add to a $6,000 reward pooled by the city's police and firefighters' unions as well as the office of City Councilman Ash Kalra, who grew up in the South San Jose neighborhood where Meeko -- a 6-month-old reddish brown Yorkie-Shih Tzu mix, or "Shorkie" -- was taken Monday.
"She wants to give all her money. She just wants her doggy back," said Michael Mabanag, Marissa's father.
The spike in burglaries is not only a safety issue in San Jose, it's a political issue in light of the continuing tension between City Hall and the police union over the cutback in salary and benefits and downsizing of the police department. Police say the escalation in crime is a direct result of trimming the number of officers.
Not only was there a reward offered for the return of Meeko, but there was a news conference about the stolen dog that featured two City Council members denying there was a political angle to the reaction to the dognapping.
"Forget politics. This is what's happening out in the neighborhood and community," Kalra said.
Kalra and Councilwoman Nancy Pyle, who represents the area, faced a battery of TV cameras hastily assembled in front of the Mabanags' home, which has been burglarized twice in just over a year. They both decried City Hall's sluggishness in bolstering a beleaguered police force, saying it has emboldened thieves.
Burglaries in the district have jumped 53 percent in the first six months of 2012, compared with the year before. Michael Mabanag said over the past two years, neighbors have been more frequently reporting burglaries of homes and cars.
"It's a criminal element that knows what is happening in San Jose," said Kalra, who grew up in the neighborhood where the Mabanags live.
Meeko was nowhere to be found after Michael Mabanag came home Monday afternoon to an open garage, shattered rear sliding-glass door, a slough of pried cabinets, and an array of missing electronics, purses and bicycles.
"The first thing, I was calling for the dog," said Michael Mabanag, an IT specialist for Applied Materials whose brother is a San Jose police officer. "It was one of the worst days of my life. How do you break that to your daughter?"
Marissa Mabanag told a group of reporters how she and her sister taught Meeko how to roll over and speak, and how the pup is a dead ringer for "Chewbacca from 'Star Wars.' "
"Whatever you do," Marissa said to the cameras, addressing whoever has him, "can you just return him back?"
Michael Mabanag noted how his two daughters, including older sister Marianna, are decorated black belts in tae kwon do, but that an event like this reminds him of their innocence.
"You think they're fighters, that they're tough," he said. "But with something like this, you see they can't be tough all the time."
The Mabanags' home was burglarized in July 2011, with the loss including electronics and jewelry. By the time they were hit again Monday, Marie Mabanag, a sixth-grade teacher at Christopher Elementary School, said she hadn't yet replaced what was lost in the first break-in. She said she was heartened by the outpouring of support from friends and the community, who are trying to spread the word about Meeko.
Marie Mabanag, a childhood schoolmate of Kalra, echoed the city councilman's thoughts about San Jose police.
"They're overworked, underpaid and there's not enough of them," she said. "Let's start working together and get our city back."
Anyone with information about the whereabouts of Meeko can contact the Mabanag family at 408-224-0765 or leave a tip with Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers at 408-947-STOP or svcrimestoppers.org.
Contact Robert Salonga at 408-920-5002. Follow him at Twitter.com/robertsalonga.