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Fresno prepares for zealous code enforcement with many question marks

VIOLENT CRIME SHOOTS UP

It was with the Bruce Rudd/Summerset news conference rattling around in my head that I attended the Fresno Police Department’s monthly CrimeView session on Dec. 9.

A more apt name is HealthView. It’s hard to imagine a more telling review of the state of Fresno’s physical and “psychosocial” equilibrium than Chief Jerry Dyer’s CrimeView seminars.

The 90-minute sessions are held in a second-floor conference room at Police Headquarters. They are designed as an update of recent crime trends for top police officials. The sessions aren’t open to the public, but reporters are allowed to attend.

CrimeView is full of statistics, delivered by division and district commanders. But there was unusual tension in the air this time.

Three days earlier, in the early morning hours of Dec. 6, police officers were shot at while responding to a gang fight at a Fresno fairgrounds parking lot in Southeast Fresno. Dozens of rounds were fired. No officer was hit, but the air was so full of bullets that the cops had to take cover behind parked cars.

Then, on Dec. 8, two undercover police officers in an unmarked car were shot at while driving on Jensen Avenue near Walnut Avenue in Southwest Fresno. The officers had slowed to take a look at two men walking along Jensen. One of the men pulled out a handgun and began firing at the officers. No one was injured.

The gangbangers at the Fairgrounds brawl knew they were shooting at cops. Dyer thinks it’s highly likely that the Jensen/Walnut shooting was also an intentional effort to harm cops.

Several themes emerged from this CrimeView seesion.

Violent crime is up 15.7% this year compared to 2014. The big jumps are in robbery and aggravated assault.

Vehicle burglaries are an increasing problem. Leaving valuables in plain sight is an open invitation to thieves and drug addicts.

Police are good at transferring forces from one neighborhood to another to put a halt to spikes in certain types of crime. But this only leaves the depleted neighborhood (and its residents) vulnerable to the all-too-mobile criminals.

The county jail is still too small to house all the bad guys who prey on Fresnans in various ways. Many crimes deemed by state law to be too petty to be forcefully acknowledged increasingly plague Fresno neighborhoods, especially those areas home to the poor and minorities.

In the 28 days prior to this CrimeView session, Fresno had seen 33 shootings. Eighteen were confirmed to be gang-related. Many of the others were thought to be gang-related. Fresno had 345 shootings as of Dec. 9 – one a day – up from 264 at the same time in 2014.

Most of the gangs and their shooters are African-American or Hispanic. Asian gangs are a factor, too.

None of the witnesses at the Fairgrounds shoot-out would talk to police.

Some of the gangs fight each other. But some are developing coalition tactics to divide up and dominate certain parts of Fresno.

“There are a lot of crews out there working together,” Dyer said.

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

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