An operation targeting crime throughout Fresno County involving more than a dozen law enforcement agencies resulted in 60 arrests during a 10-hour period on Friday and Saturday.
“The message is this: If you’re a law-abiding citizen, welcome us into your community because we’re going to take care of business,” Sheriff Margaret Mims said before Operation Gold Star began. “If you’re not a law-abiding citizen, now’s the time to turn yourself in. Otherwise, we’re going to be knocking on your door.
“In 2015, burglaries were up 26 percent, robberies were up 23 percent and theft was up 8 percent,” Mims said. “So far in 2016, burglaries are up again, and so is auto theft.”
Mims said the operation was a response to rising crime rates.
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The message is this: If you’re a law-abiding citizen, welcome us into your community because we’re going to take care of business. If you’re not a law-abiding citizen, now’s the time to turn yourself in.
Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff
The 142 people participating were from 18 different agencies and made up eight to 10 teams, sheriff’s spokesman Tony Botti said. Federal, state and local agencies were all represented, including Fresno police, Clovis police, Sanger police, California Department of Corrections, Fresno County District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security.
“We’re more able now to hold people accountable,” Mims said. “The beauty of having, for instance, the DA’s office involved is that just making arrests isn’t enough. We’ve got to be able to pull the case together and prove it in court.”
The last time a similar operation was done was in 2005, Botti said.
The Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium “usually does four sweeps a year, specifically to target gangs in certain parts of the county,” Botti said. “This operation was all-encompassing, and it was focused more on the metro areas.”
Tim Juarez, a deputy with the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office for 18 years, was in charge of Team 5, made up of seven vehicles and 13 personnel.
“The focus is warrants and those with active probation that we need to check on,” Juarez said as his team began the operation.
The first stop for Juarez’s team was a Fresno home west of Highway 99, near Belmont and Hughes avenues, to find a 33-year-old man on parole for robbery. The officers had a warrant for alleged weapons offenses.
“We’re not just dealing with nobodies – these guys got pasts,” Juarez said. “These guys are pros at what they do.”
As Team 5 approached the home, an unleashed pit bull and Chihuahua briefly following, they learned the parolee wasn’t at the home.
Officers spoke with several people alongside the home, next to piles of scrap wood and trash.
“Have you ever been arrested?” sheriff’s Detective Darrel Olivas asked Kali Bratton, 29.
Bratton, sitting on a large tire, replied that she had been arrested for a drug possession charge.
We’re not just dealing with nobodies – these guys got pasts. These guys are pros at what they do.
Tim Juarez, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office deputy
“I’m technically homeless,” Bratton said, explaining she stayed with friends mostly.
“When was your last meeting with your probation officer?” parole officer Eddie Tostado asked. Bratton said it was in April.
“You’ve gotta make sure you always check back,” Tostado said. “If they don’t ever see or hear from you, they’ll put a warrant out, since they don’t know where you’re at.”
Bratton was told to contact her probation officer by Monday as Juarez’s team left the residence.
“The purpose of this detail is to be proactive, to show law enforcement in the area,” Juarez said.
From 5:30 to 10 p.m., Team 5 went from home to home in search of people with active warrants and arrested two on felony warrants. Manuel Balderas, 32, was arrested on a parole violation and Mary Ann Wilkerson, 65, was arrested on a warrant for alleged insurance fraud.
From 10 p.m. until the end of the operation, Team 5 patrolled around the city, stopping three vehicles and seven more people who were biking or walking.
Operation Gold Star concluded at 2 a.m. Saturday with a total of 60 arrests, which included a DUI, probation violations, parole violations, drug possession and more, Botti said.