FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Fresno has seen a spike in shootings so far in 2021.
There have been 580 shootings, an alarming number, paired with an alarming statistic.
According to crime reports CBS47 obtained through a public record request to the Fresno Police Department, only 13% percent of those shootings have ended in an arrest so far this year.
That means nearly nine out of every 10 shooters have not been caught so far this year.
COVID-19 has caused a perfect storm for disaster in the justice system.
The numbers prove it.
In 2020, when the pandemic began, a disturbing trend began to emerge.
Two out of every three murderers had gotten away with it that year.
“We are still feeling the effects of COVID and the defund movement and so many factors driving violent crime,” Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said. “Plus in California, it’s difficult to do that. It’s difficult to drive violent crime down.”
Continuing into 2021, the department is now struggling to put away criminals responsible for the record number of shootings this year in Fresno with 580 shootings and just 68 arrests.
That’s nearly nine out of every 10 times a shooting has happened this year, the shooter has yet to be caught.
“That number is dismal because what that tells you is people are recklessly shooting,” District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said. “The numbers are so high. People are either not seeing it or not participating with law enforcement.”
“The challenge is trying to do so much with such few resources,” Balderrama said. “That is the biggest challenge. Internally, that’s my struggle. I’m the leader of a police department that has 700 officers coming to work when it should have a thousand. So, it’s difficult to make an impact when you have such few resources but, regardless, we still have to get it done.”
Though the rate of unsolved shootings is high for the year, most homicides are being solved in 2021, improving from 35% of murders in 2020 to now more than 70% solved this year.
“Solving crime is a very high priority,” Balderrama said. “Solving violent crime especially because you’re identifying people committing violent crime and taking them off the streets.”
The city is working to make changes to strengthen its resources within the police department.
“The mayor and I have a plan to add 1,000 cops in the next three to five years, so once I have a thousand cops and we are fully staffed, things are going to be a lot different around here.”
Meanwhile, Balderrama and Smittcamp say added resources will be needed because of a recent flood of illegal guns on our streets.
Smittcamp says it can be traced back to the EDD fraud disaster in California.
“There’s a lot of our investigation that has led us to believe the fraudulent EDD money, and some of the stimulus money people received, were the catalyst to allowing many criminals to purchase guns.”
Billions of dollars of unemployment money funneled through our jail and prison systems since the pandemic.
“They, in turn, purchased guns and there we see the result of that which is just a tremendous increase in the number of shootings we’ve seen here in Fresno,” Smittcamp said.
Smittcamp says it will take a community to lower crime and solve crime to ultimately create a safer Fresno.
“We have to watch each other, be each other’s keeper, participate with law enforcement, that’s how we’ll create a safer community by saying enough is enough.”
Smittcamp says witness cooperation in crimes is vital to solving them.
She wants to remind the public there are several safe avenues to report crimes or give witness testimony including anonymous tips to the police or using crime stoppers.