Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer announced Monday the formation of a special unit tasked with apprehending domestic violence offenders before they inflict further injury on their victims.
Dyer said the department was acting in response to a 43 percent increase in the crime this year. The Domestic Violence Apprehension Team will go after the city’s most violent abusers, and the unit was immediately handed a list of 85 offenders, two of whom were arrested by the time the chief and District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp spoke at a news conference late in the morning.
“The team will exhaust every means possible to remove these individuals – some may refer to them as cowards – from our streets,” Dyer said.
The chief said there are 7,000 cases of domestic violence in Fresno, many committed in conjunction with stalking, and added domestic violence is driving much of the city’s violent crime, including aggravated assault, robbery and murder. Police say two murders committed this year were the result of domestic violence.
Domestic-violence crimes tend to become progressively more violent and injuries often become more severe. According to Dyer, 29 percent of the crimes start as misdemeanors and progress to felonies.
More often than not, a second, more serious offense inflicted on a victim takes place within the week that the first offense was reported. Dyer said the goal of the unit is to arrest the offender before he or she can act again.
The chief cautioned victims to seek help quickly.
“Many individuals get caught up in the cycle of domestic violence, and we want them to know it doesn’t get better,” he said. “In fact, it gets much worse. Get out. You owe it to yourself and to your family.”
Smittcamp, who spent a decade prosecuting such cases for the District Attorney’s Office, called the city’s domestic violence numbers “staggering and disturbing.”
Dyer’s point about escalating violence was reflected in tragic terms last year in downtown Fresno, when Neng Moua killed his former wife Zyang Vang, with whom he had five children.
At that time, Genelle Taylor Kump, executive director of the Marjaree Mason Center, said domestic violence sometimes has fatal outcomes.
“This severe abuse doesn’t happen overnight; it can start with verbal abuse, escalate to physical abuse and unfortunately, as in this case, may result in death,” she said.
Kump was unavailable Monday for comment on the chief’s new initiative.
The center’s 24-hour confidential hotline is available at 559-233-HELP (4357).
Fresno’s Marjaree Mason Center’s hotline for victims of domestic violence can be reached at 559-233-HELP