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Don't forget it, Jake: Fresno's Chinatown at a crossroads

Crime has Everyone on Edge

A news conference hosted by Police Chief Jerry Dyer in on May 10 shed light on Chinatown’s challenges. The event came in the wake of the Chief’s monthly Crime View meeting with top departmental leaders.

Dyer addressed a variety of public safety issues. The homeless – vagrants and drifters are perhaps more accurate terms – was one of the topics.

“What we’re finding is more and more calls for service for people that are out on the street,” Dyer said. “What we also know is that many of them, a significant number of them, are involved in criminal activity. Breaking into cars, breaking into businesses, stealing items and then openly fencing those items.”

Dyer had Capt. Mark Salazar, commander of the Southwest Policing District, come to the microphone.

Salazar said his officers are taking a proactive rather than reactive strategy to crime fighting.

“We have a small Downtown policing unit – five officers and a sergeant – and their mission is to disrupt that crime in Downtown and Chinatown,” Salazar said. “We know West Fresno gangs come into the Downtown and Chinatown area. We’ve targeted those West Fresno gangs, and we’ve had a lot of success over the last four months. We also know that there’s a lot of homeless out there and they probably should be in prison if not for different (state) propositions. And they’re out there, too. They’re on probation, they’re on parole, they’re running from probation, they’re running from parole. We’re taking them on, as well.”

Salazar told the story of a former gang member now homeless on the streets of Chinatown. The man stole thousands of dollars of equipment from a Fresno Fire Department site. He set the equipment against a fence, only to have a couple of other homeless guys come along and steal the stolen stuff.

Long story short, officers recovered all of the equipment except for a $1,400 radio. Detectives looked for places where the thieves could turn their loot into cash.

“We were led to a store in Chinatown that was fencing the property,” Salazar said. “… As the detectives were in there, there was a line out the door of homeless with different goods. When they knew we were there, they left.”

The radio was recovered.

In the first four months of 2017, Salazar said, Downtown as a whole has seen a 29% drop in robberies, a 17% drop in larceny, an 18% drop in burglaries and a 22% drop in stolen vehicles.

When asked about crime in Chinatown, Salazar said: “It’s hit and miss. The homeless on Santa Clara (the Poverello House area) will go into Chinatown, which angers business owners. But some avenues are quiet and clean. It’s all connected – Santa Clara, Chinatown, Downtown. What we try to do is get in front of it.”

George Hostetter is The Sun’s Fresno Civic contributor – covering the City of Fresno, County of Fresno, and Fresno Council of Governments.

5 Comments

  1. And where will all of our ‘homeless’ people be along with the rest of the broken window issues? How will these issues be kept out of sight?

  2. The proposed solution to Chinatown about 30 years ago was to condemn it, level it and peddle the vacant land to Ed Kashian to redevelop as a modern commercial area. This idea surfaced after Highway City fought a similar proposal off. The Chinatown folks battled to keep Kashian out. Over the years since, Chinatown has been slowly dying. Quite a few of the older buildings have burned down and the homeless have gradually taken the area over.

  3. I love the free parking in China Town and often go there for a good meal though was saddened when Paris Cafe literally gave up the ghost. I also miss Come & Get It Chicken & Waffles. Give people a reason to go somewhere, and they will go. Wish the city would help small businesses get a foothold in China Town.

  4. I driven through Chinatown yesterday and COULDN’T BELIEVE how decimated and barron it looked. The homeless people took it over smh. I remember going there as a kid. Fish mamasan giving me a toy every time I went into Central Fish. Its very very sad to see the current condition of Chinatown. I’m not really sure if HSR will help it. It will create basically a wall to divide DTF and chinatown.

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