The city of Fresno is moving forward toward funding an incentive program for gang members, in an effort to curb gang violence in the city. The program is called Advanced Peace and would offer gang members stipends and incentives to abandon the lifestyle.
The council agreed to fund $200,000 dollars, a portion of the funding needed to start the program, on Thursday. It passed the council in a 3-2 vote. Esmaralda Soria was not there and did not vote.
The program is causing heated debate. Those against it say gang members shouldn’t be paid to put down their weapons, and those in favor say that’s not what the program is about- but rather supporting their transition out of the gang lifestyle.
“As bad as you think it is to lose your child, if it ever happens, you realize it’s ten times worse than you could ever imagine,” said community organizer and advocate for the program Aaron Foster.
Foster lost not one, but two of his children to gang violence, both memorial day weekends four years apart. His daughter Kayla, then 18-years-old was caught in the crossfire.
“They both got shot in the back of the head but his body was a lot easier to look at because the bullet didn’t exit. With my baby, I’m shell shocked forever,” said Foster.
The program is for gang members to get them on track with things like work or education. After completing certain criteria and sticking with the program for six months, they receive a stipend, a concept that has people divided.
“I am philosophically opposed to giving money to any gang member,” said Fresno Police Cheif Jerry Dyer.
“This program is a complete waste of taxpayer money and we should be hiring police officers, community service officers, 911 dispatchers, that’s what we need to have, they haven’t funded one police officer in this budget but they want to waste $200,000 with this silliness,” said District 6 Councilman Garry Bredefeld.
Council members and Chief Jerry Dyer now have 90 days to come up with a concrete plan of how it will be funded and how it will operate.