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CBS47 Special Report: The True Cost of Crime

Whenever there is a shooting, whether it kills someone or not, the impact is huge. It brings fear into neighborhoods, eats up resources and taxpayer dollars, and alters lives forever.
Whenever there is a shooting, whether it kills someone or not, the impact is huge. It brings fear into neighborhoods, eats up resources and taxpayer dollars, and alters lives forever.

Violent crimes happen far too often in our community. It's something we should not have to accept and if we can prevent things like shootings, we will all benefit in the end.

CBS47's Tony Botti is On Your Side, exploring the true cost of crime.

To understand the true impact of gun violence, we visited 15-year-old Andrew Mitchell. He’s just one of many who has had to pay the price for this senseless behavior. The student at New Millennium Institute of Education has relied on a wheelchair to get around ever since a bullet left him partially paralyzed.

The shooting happened on Lorena Avenue in Southwest Fresno, the day after Christmas in 2002. Andrew was only 6-year old and was playing with one of his new toys. Shots rang out from a drive-by shooting and people scattered but Andrew froze. One of the rounds severed his spine and lodged in his arm.

Andrew’s father, Bruce Mitchell said, “It stays very fresh. That is something that changed our lives forever.” Bruce says now, even basic activities for Andrew are difficult. “It's not that we can get up and get out of here in 30 minutes, it's a process,” said Bruce. The burden is lessened, thanks to Andrew's "never give up” attitude. “Y'all might have to do something and I'll just have to find a different way to do it, but I can still do it,” said Andrew.

Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said, “I don't know how he keeps such a positive outlook and attitude, but Andrew does.” Chief Dyer uses situations like Andrew's as motivation each day that he works. “We can never become tolerant to crime, especially violent crime,” said Dyer.

Fresno's violent crime is down 13% from a year ago, however, shootings are on the rise. In 2011, there were 321 shootings. There have already been 137 shootings this year. Gangs are responsible for 82 shootings and taggers for 17 more.

Physical and mental damage from shootings are just part of pain. These crimes cost the community in countless other ways by eating up precious resources. Detective Ignacio Ruiz with the Fresno Police Department said, “I personally have worked a shooting investigation for hundreds of hours in one week and that's on top of my regularly scheduled 40 hour week. -- it takes a toll on the body, emotionally and physically. It's tough.”

Detective Ruiz says shootings not only pull patrol officers away from protecting your homes and vehicles, they also spread fear on the streets. “We have small children hearing these shots fired in the middle of the night. Maybe they even witness the shooting and it changes their attitude and personality and you can't put a price on that,” said Ruiz.

Violent crimes, which are shootings, stabbings and assaults, account for 14% of all traumas in Fresno County each year and all of them wind up at Fresno's Community Regional Medical Center.

Dan Lynch, Fresno County’s Director of Emergency Medical Services says CRMC has 24-hour surgical support, neuro-surgical support, and orthopedic support and world class care begins with an ambulance ride. “It’s going to cost somewhere between $600 and a $1,000 depending on the distance to the hospital,” said Lynch.

Lynch also says it can cost up to four times that amount if a helicopter is needed to transport the victim. Once in the emergency room, expenses really rack up depending on the level of surgery that is required following a violet crime. “It goes from thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Lynch.

Many of these victims do not have health insurance, so the hospital foots the bill. “There's a level of charity that hospitals and ambulance services end up providing. They're essentially writing off the bill because they can't recover those costs,” said Lynch. It adds up to millions and millions of dollars each year. So what happens once a hospital's threshold is reached? Everyone else pays for it in the form of rising emergency and medical costs.

As long as the violence continues, Fresno's name pays for it too. “If we establish a reputation throughout the state or throughout the nation of being a high crime area, a gang infested city, we will never attract the types of businesses we need to ultimately sustain this city,” said Chief Dyer.

Dyer also added that Fresno loses some of its good residents in the process.

Bruce Mitchell says through teamwork, we can make a positive change. “It's going to take the community working together with the police department as well as non-profit organizations, the churches. It's going to take a full effort,” said Mitchell.

To those thinking of pulling the trigger, Andrew Mitchell sends this message: “Don't do it, it's not cool.”

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