Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer says he's pitting fewer than 700 sworn officers against 24,000 gang members and their associates -- but he's still confident about winning this war on crime.
During a Thursday breakfast with the theme "Crime is Toast," the chief told members of the Fresno Chamber of Commerce that his officers are leveraging an array of tactics and technology to make the city safe in spite of gangs, methamphetamine and an overcrowded prison system that is putting dangerous criminals back on the street.
He said he sometimes fields comments from Fresnans who believe things are constantly getting worse in terms of crime. It just isn't true, he says.
If you like statistics, Dyer has them: a 40% reduction in violent crime from 2001, when he became chief, to 2013; a 26% cut in property crime in the same time frame and a 70% slice in auto theft since 1994, when Fresno was named the car theft capital of the nation.
He credited the car theft reduction to the creation of a special auto theft team and a recent agreement through which the city pays for five beds in Fresno County Jail to keep repeat offenders behind bars.
There's also operation Ceasefire: Police identify the shotcallers in gangs, call them in and give them a "come to church" message. Together with staff from the Fresno County District Attorney, Probation and other offices, they get the message that the violence won't be tolerated, along with an offer to help them get out of the gang lifestyle.
Fresno has seen the ranks of officers drop by about 150 since 2009, but the chief outlined several initiatives he said will help his department stay on top of crime. They include:
Predictive policing: Computer algorithms help forecast where and when crime will occur. The department will begin using the system within 90 days.
Body cameras for officers: Wearing the devices could protect officers from false claims of excessive force as well as speed help to an officer in danger.
Shotspot: New high-tech devices can triangulate the position of a gunshot, as well as alert officers to the direction a drive-by shooter is escaping.
Drones: Dyer said they are in the future of the department, but are perhaps five years out.
Cameras: Fresno has about 170 on city streets, compared to 1,000 in San Francisco, a city with a much smaller geographical area. Dyer expects to add between 15 and 20 a year and augment them with real-time monitoring. Teaming up with Fresno Unified School District cameras and private cameras at banks and other locations would multiply the effectiveness.
Smart street lights: Determining where lighting should be brightened to help fight crime. "We are a very dark, city," Dyer said. He wants to change that.
"Even in the darkest times, we have done remarkably well," Dyer said, summing up. "And I truly believe that the future of Fresno in terms of public safety is extremely bright."
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