FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Curbing gang violence – it’s what the Fresno Chief of Police said needs to be done to keep the community safe and limit the number of homicides in Fresno.
To limit these deaths, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama started a new crackdown on gangs and put forward more officers and resources towards patrolling gangs and solving gang-related crimes.
“We had to slow the momentum which was going in the opposite momentum that we wanted it to,” said Balderrama.
This week the city of Fresno saw its 70th and 71st homicides, a number while lower than what Balderrama said he anticipated when he first became chief in January, is still higher than what he’d like to see.
In August, Balderrama said his department started their gang suppression initiative, hoping to curb gang violence and in turn, help lower the city’s homicide numbers.
“We now have somebody working gangs every single night of the week,” he said.
The department shifted some detectives to focus on solving gang crimes and Balderrama said he’s also doubled the existing teams focused on gangs with more resources funneled towards MAGEC and the new initiative. He said progress is now being made.
Balderrama said since August they’ve made 544 felony arrests and 895 misdemeanor arrests. Of all the people taken into custody, 312 were gang members.
He adds a big focus of the initiative is to take illegal firearms off the streets. So far, Fresno police have been able to seize 269 guns from the crackdown and are on pace to have two thousand guns off the streets in total this year.
Although the department is working hard to crack down on gang violence, staffing remains an issue with 60 vacancies currently on the police force. Still, Balderrama said with just a few weeks left in 2021 he thinks Fresno is safer than this time last year.
“If nothing had been done, if we didn’t take the limited resources that we had, we probably would be sitting close to where Oakland is right now.”
The Chief adds another big part of the gang suppression initiative is to speak with school resource officers too.
He said because these officers often have good relationships with students, they can sometimes help let them know what’s happening on the streets.