The Fresno Police Department has begun a crackdown on gang violence after an alarming trend of murders and shootings in Fresno since the beginning of the year.
Fresno has seen 14 homicides since January, Chief Jerry Dyer said. Of those, 12 involved a gang member. Last week alone, there were 19 shootings – a number Dyer said is the highest he has seen in his 15 1/2 as chief.
He cited the Feb. 26 shooting of Amber Baker in her central Fresno apartment as reason enough for the crackdown. She was pregnant and living in the apartment with her 4-month-old son, her sister and other women. “It won’t be long until we have an innocent child shot and killed in our city,” Dyer said.
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The violence suppression operation is expected to last two weeks. There will be more officers in the streets to round up gang members. The operation began Wednesday night, with 100 officers assigned. After the two weeks, Dyer will reassess the operation. His goal is to have high visibility when shootings occur the most – nights and weekends.
Dyer said the spike in gang activity may have stemmed from enforcement targeting two African American gangs in the city. The leaders of both gangs were arrested by police, leaving smaller gangs trying to rise in the ranks and “prove themselves” with gun violence.
“We’ve had some very brazen crimes,” Dyer said. “We have gang members willing to drive around our city, three or four in a car, armed.” Dyer said some of the drive-by shootings have happened in broad daylight. “This demonstrates to me that they don’t have a fear of being caught.”
He said instilling that fear will take more officers focusing on the neighborhoods that need the most help.
Officers were out in force Thursday night, focusing on central and east-central Fresno. On McKinley Avenue and First Street, a wanted parolee was arrested after police say they found heroin in the car he was in. Face tattoos identified the man as a possible gang member. Officer Rich Padilla said the area is always full of gang activity. “There’s a lot of arrests made out there,” he said.
Dyer said his ultimate goal is a night with zero gun violence.
“We are going to send a strong message to gang members,” he said. “We’re going to stop them and take them to jail.”