Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer announced the city’s intention to create another policing district in Fresno and open a satellite police office in the Tower District during a public safety meeting Monday night at Heaton Elementary School.
Dyer told the more than 100 people who gathered at the meeting that he could not give an exact date for the satellite office or new policing district, but emphasized that the city was committed to both.
District 1 Councilwoman Esmeralda Soria, whose district includes the Tower District, said the meeting was called because residents had complaints about the rise in crime, lack of patrols, lack of bike cops and long officer response time for non-priority service calls.
On the minds of many of the district’s resident’s at the meeting was the reopening of a Tower District substation, with sustained applause from the audience at the mention of the substation by Dyer and Soria. The recession led to the closure of the Tower District substation in 2011.
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Several residents said they were seeing more vagrants in the neighborhood and had had homes or vehicles broken into.
Marcus Martinez said his vehicle had been repeatedly broken into.
Citywide, violent crime has increased by approximately 33 percent since the beginning of the year compared to the same period last year, the chief said.
Boundaries for the new policing district will likely be around Belmont Avenue on the south and Ashlan Avenue on the north, Dyer said, but they could change. The former central policing district was closed during the recession as a money-saving measure, Dyer said.
Software and statistics are used to draw districts and ensure each police district deals with an equitable number of service calls, so Dyer urged residents to report crimes.
If crimes aren’t reported and statistics do not reflect reality, the department’s strategies are meaningless, Dyer said. “We may not be able to respond quickly but we still want to know about it.”
“We have been challenged in our city for the last five to six years,” Dyer said. “No. 1 is the recession that hit in 2009 – it took a tremendous toll on the city of Fresno, on our resources. We lost 150 police officers in our department.”
Dyer attributed a significant portion of the increase in crime to the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014, which reclassified as misdemeanors many nonviolent crimes that had been felonies. Shoplifting and forging checks were some of the crimes that were reclassified under the law.
“It not just tied the hands of law enforcement but the criminal justice system,” Dyer said.
During the roughly 2 1/2 -hour meeting, Dyer fielded questions about homelessness in Tower, gang-related crime, robberies, home invasions and more.
Dan DeRoo, a resident of the Tower District for more than 40 years, said he believed petty crime and home invasions had close to doubled over the past 10 years.
DeRoo said he was concerned about the city fulfilling its commitments.
“We get continual promises of work being done, ‘Yes, we’ll take care of that,’ ” DeRoo said. “But then nothing ever happens.”