FRESNO, California (KSEE) – Fresno City Councilmembers voted 5-1 to give $300,000 from the city’s budget to fund the Advance Peace program.
The program is designed to reduce gun violence and identify gang members in the community. It will pay for education or life-skills training to encourage members to stay out of trouble.
A program with an almost identical name was approved last year by the council but was vetoed by Mayor Lee Brand.
This year Brand spearheaded the proposal, amending it to have mandates including involvement by Fresno Police Department, local control over how it is run, and ensuring the money goes towards staffing of the program instead of stipends.
“My hope and my prayer is that we can save lives,” said Brand. “Change lives and have more productive people in the community so we can solve the problem that is gun violence.”
Even without Brand’s support, the program would move forward because five councilmembers voted in favor of it on Thursday.
“I never gave up on Advance Peace,” said Aaron Foster who brought the program to Fresno. “Because every day, I wake up and my kids are still in the cemetery. So that is what motivated me to do something.”
Seven years ago, Aaron Foster’s son was shot and killed. In 2017, his daughter suffered the same fate in a drive-by shooting.
“My son was an active gang member but my daughter: she was innocent,” said Foster. “She never had been in a fight in her life, but she got killed the same way.”
From that moment, Foster dedicated his life to reducing gun violence locally through Advance Peace.
The new program, which originated in Richmond, California, will identify 20-25 gang members in the community and offers life skills and educational training to incentive them to stay out of trouble. Fresno’s program does not give money to the participants of the program, but toward staffing to teach the educational courses.
Mayor Brand and Mayor-Elect Jerry Dyer have voiced concerns in the past but now welcome the reworked program.
“We have the right people involved, (and) the right program,” said Dyer. “It’s comprehensive in nature that is going to ensure that it is local.”
Councilmember Garry Bredefeld was the only no vote. He said there is not enough data to ensure it will be successful.
Fresno Police Chief Andy Hall did not respond to a request for comment.