Eyewitness News Investigates: University Inn and Fresno Police team up to fight crime

A highly visible motel near Fresno State is working to clean up its image

FRESNO, Calif. - A popular and highly visible motel near Fresno State is working to clean up its image. This after a gang related shooting involving an officer on February 27.

Our team dug up the numbers on calls for service at the University Inn. Call it a work in progress. Police say safety is a top priority when Fresno State and the Save Mart Center are across the street. Since the officer involved shooting, Fresno Police and the University Inn have joined forces to prevent crime on the property.

February 27, 2018. It's just after 10 P.M. when this call comes in. 

"I got two down. Two running. Shots fired," said a Fresno Police officer over radio dispatch.

Fresno Police arrive at 2655 East Shaw where a gun fight involving multiple people, leaves one man shot outside University Inn. Police say a 20-year veteran officer opens fire on two suspects running off into the night and for the next several hours, the street between Fresno State and University Inn is lit up with red and blue.

Captain Dennis Bridges of the Northeast Fresno Policing District says the owner of University Inn received a strong warning a week after the gang related shooting. 

"After the officer involved shooting, they were warned about the real property ordinance and encouraged to come in compliance and to work with us and they have done so," said Bridges.

Here's a look at what Fresno Police have faced at University Inn. 

From January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2017 there were 250 total calls for service. 137 of them were generated by the public. Police say these calls include disturbances, suspicious activity and general crime. Officer initiated incidents are documented when police are proactive without being called first. During this time period, there were 99 officer initiated incidents at University Inn.

For 12 years, Joing Thao has worked at his family's restaurant. The Jasmine Garden is right next door to University Inn. Thao says he's seen waves of crimes come through the motel. 

"It is pretty shocking to realize it's right next to your business," said Thao. 

In 2017, calls for service at University Inn went up by 38 percent with a total of 346. But the main factor in the jump? A majority of the total calls were initiated by officers with 183. That's an 85 percent jump. 143 calls were generated by the public.

From the start of January, 2018 through May 1, total calls for service increased another 56 percent to 541. But only 29 came from the public. 506 of the total calls were officer initiated. 

"We want to create an environment where criminals can walk in and say 'you know what, I don't want to mess with this place,'" said Fresno Police Detective Danny Kim.

Kim works directly works with hotel management across northeast Fresno to improve security and deter criminals. Kim points out problem spots like weak fencing and visibility issues caused by trees and shrubs.

Management at University Inn did not want to be interviewed but gave our crew an inside look at some recent improvements including surveillance cameras in the lobby. There's now a scanner that verifies identification and guests must have parking passes along with a required deposit. There are plans to install rod iron fencing around the property and an overnight security guard has been patrolling the area since the officer involved shooting. 

In fact, 97 percent of 2018's calls for service at University Inn occurred after the officer involved shooting. In two months, nearly 450 calls were initiated by police. Detective Kim says that stat is a good sign. 

"I do get feedback on a regular basis from a patrol officer who works midnights and swings and lap shift. They will come to me and tell me 'hey, you know what? It looks really good,'" said Kim. 

Kim says business owners and citizens can make a difference by speaking up when they see anything suspicious. As for University Inn, northeast Fresno Police are watching, determined to prevent what happened on February 27. 

"Issues like these are ones that we have to monitor. Can't just deal with it and walk away. We have to continue to be diligent," said Bridges.

Business owners in northeast Fresno can have a site survey done by police to see what they can do to improve security. Just call 621-6409. 

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