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.”