FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — On Friday, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said the department is making strides in cracking down on gang violence and making critical reforms in policing.

According to Chief Balderrama, as of Wednesday, the city has seen 52 homicides this year compared to 27 at this time in 2020. Chief Balderrama says the majority of homicides in Fresno are gang-related. The chief says the crackdown on gang violence, which began as a department-wide effort on Aug. 5, is making a difference.

“Our gang suppression operation has yielded 408 arrests, 154 of these being felonies,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama also spoke on the need to find balance in public safety and police reforms. He announced the first group of recommendations from the Fresno Police Reform Commission that the department is adopting. They include:

  • Strict new policies aimed at reducing police shootings through more training on de-escalation techniques
  • Requiring police to have at least one non-lethal weapon on hand
  • Only using lethal force to defend human lives
  • Limiting how often police reach into cars to apprehend or make contact with suspects

“We’re working on taking guns off the streets, gang members off the streets so our community can be safe,” Balderrama said. “We can’t lose that community trust, and part of these trust means looking at these recommendations, trying to assess which ones are going to benefit our community, and implement the ones that make sense.”

Aaron Foster of Advance Peace, a community organization aimed at reducing gun violence, is glad to see police reforms being put in place. Foster also sat on the Fresno Police Reform Commission board that came up with these recommendations in late 2020. Foster feels more needs to be done.

“Everybody that I know who lives in Southwest Fresno knows somebody that has been killed by a gun, and we have to walk by those memorials,” Foster said. “Today’s victim is tomorrow’s shooter.”

Foster is generally pleased with Chief Balderrama’s commitment to building community trust.

“I think he’s doing a great job at being transparent,” Foster said. “He’s an honest man and I really respect that. Everything that he’s ever told me, he’s done  it.”

These are the first of over 70 reform recommendations to be adopted by the department. Balderrama says he will continue to hold briefings to update the gang crackdown.