Last year six women were killed in domestic violence crimes and many others were injured. This year, Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer made it a top priority to try to prevent these heartbreaking crimes from happening. In a month long investigation we worked with leaders at the Marjoree Mason Center who care for women who are trying to escape abuse. Also, we’re learning more about the strategies being used by patrol officers to reduce the impact of domestic violence in Fresno.
Everyday when officers arrive for work they sit in on a briefing before they hit the streets. Officers in all five policing district in Fresno now are now given a list of the most wanted domestic violence suspects. The goal is to get these people off the streets before they seriously hurt someone at home.
In 2017, 22-year-old Breanna Bradford never showed up to her first day of work at a Fresno IHOP. She was reported missing.
“We don’t know what happened and I just immediately felt unease,” said IHOP General Manager Clarence Williams.
Investigators say just weeks earlier she told a friend she had recently become a victim of domestic violence. On September 17th she was found lifeless inside her vehicle in southeast Fresno. Her ex-boyfriend James Gonzalez-Gay who is now in prison is the suspected killer. Investigators say Bradford was one of six women killed in Fresno domestic violence crimes last year.
“Domestic violence is occuring in every community within our city here,” Sgt. Chris Serrano of the Fresno Police Department.
Sergeant Serrano leads the Domestic Violence Unit at the Fresno Police Department with a sense of urgency to protect vulnerable victims from as many as 100 wanted domestic violence suspects on a daily basis.
“Although restraining orders are meant to protect and prevent one from domestic violence they are just a piece of paper and they are not a guarantee of safety,” said Serrano.
Fresno officers say they can receive around 600 domestic violence reports a month. In 2017 officers took more than five thousand calls about domestic violence, that’s more than ten a day.
“We know at any given time there’s at least 100 suspects who are wanted for the crime of domestic violence,” said Chief Dyer.
In response, an updated list of the most wanted domestic violence suspects in fresno is provided to officers every day.
“That list goes out to every patrol car in the city,” said Sgt. Serrano.
The result, more arrests. Domestic violence arrests have doubled compared to this time last year and overall domestic violence cases are down 20% in 2018. The challenge now becomes protecting victims from future abuse.
At the Marjaree Mason Center they see many women at the same stage of life looking for help.
“An individual about 32-years-old with two to three children,” said Lucianna Ventresca of the Marjaree Mason Center.
The Marjaree Mason Center says its safe house is an example of the wide ranging impact of family violence– especially as they count the number of children now living there.
“With our safe house for every adult we have we have at least two or three children 70% of our residents are children,” said Vantresca.
This is a major concern for the Fresno Police Department in its mission to prevent domestic violence in the future. Officers fear children exposed to these situations could be influenced later on.
“Abuse and emotional abuse whether it’s emotional, physical those are learned behaviors and sometimes those things can carryover into adulthood so those are the things we’d like to prevent,” said Sgt. Serrano.
Through a partnership with organizations like the Marjaree Mason Center the Fresno Police Department is helping to provide resources to victims and their children. Investigators say the best thing we can do to in the fight against domestic violence is to report it right away.
“Whether it’s your neighbor, whether it’s a relative, a friend from school, a parent from school, it’s important the message is sent to them that domestic violence is not accepted,” said Sgt. Serrano.
Investigators tell me they understand escaping an abusive relationship isn’t easy and victims often feel stuck. As officers work to lock up the most wanted offenders they hope victims will seek out resources to get help.
Resource Description Telephone Website
Marjaree Mason Center
Crisis, shelter and other services for victims and survivors of domestic violence
24-hour crisis line: 559-233-4357
National Domestic Violence Hotline
Crisis hotline for domestic violence victims
Family Justice Center
Fresno Police Department assistance for victims of domestic violence
Centro La Familia
Information for victims and survivors of domestic violence
Fresno State Confidential Advocacy Services
Information for victims of domestic violence
Fresno County Victim Resources
Resources for victims of domestic violence crimes
Fresno County resources
Community resources for victims and survivors of domestic violence
Fresno County Batterers Intervention Programs
Fresno County 52-week batterer intervention programs
www.fresno.courts.ca.gov/family/ fcsAssets/documents/PFC-03%20Batterer%20Invervention% 20Programs.pdf
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV)
List of resources available to domestic violence victims and survivors
California Partnership to End Domestic Violence
Advocacy for domestic violence victims and survivors
The Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-Based Violence
Information for domestic violence victims and survivors
National LGBTQ Institute on Intimate Partner Violence
Information for domestic violence victims and survivors
Central California Legal Services Provides domestic violence restraining orders and other services.