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Fresno prepares for zealous code enforcement with many question marks

NO ONE WILL TALK

Dyer finished with thoughts on four issues: Booking policy at the jail in the wake of Proposition 47; the tendency of some Fresnans (whether from fear or sympathy) to turn a blind to crime in their neighborhoods; plans to deal with the recent uptick in shootings; intelligence operations.

“When we remove (thieves) from the streets, the vehicle burglaries go down,” Dyer said. “When they are back on the streets, the vehicle burglaries go up. The nexus is drugs…. I look for the month of January to be a lot different in terms of how we approach people that we contact on the streets for drug offenses and those that have misdemeanor warrants.

“The tendency has been to cite them out. But since we do have some available jail beds, we are looking at booking all of those individuals in jail. We’re working with the courts, making sure there is not a significant impact on them. We’re making sure that this is what we need to do to address some of the crime trends. In January, we’ll know.”

I once saw a police report to the City Council that said Fresno had something like 5,000 gang members and another 5,000 wannabes. Common sense suggests that this kind of presence, year in and year out, means many neighborhoods have a social network of law-abiding people who tolerate such gang behavior. In other words, gangs couldn’t exist on the scale they do without a lot of enablers.

“What we see, especially when it involves crimes involving gang members, whether it’s robberies or shootings, there is reluctance by individuals to provide information to us, whether they are residents or people that may been a witness,” Dyer said.

“The reason is, No. 1, out of fear, the fear that there may be some type of retaliation if their identity is disclosed. And, secondly, sometimes there is an enabling effect, where people do not want to provide information because maybe it is a relative. Maybe it is a close friend who has committed that crime, and the information isn’t provided to us in a way that it should be.”

Dyer added: “It’s very frustrating when you have, like we did at the Fairgrounds the other night, where you may have 70 or 80 people that are present during a shootout, and not one individual comes forward.”

Dyer during the CrimeView session clearly was frustrated that so many of the gang shooters are African-American.

“The first thing that we’re going to be doing is identify the most active and violent offenders that are in West Fresno gangs,” Dyer said at the post-session news conference. “We will be targeting those individuals and removing them from the neighborhood. We’re going to find a reason to arrest them, and generally it’s because they are involved in criminal activity or they have outstanding warrants or they are in violation of their probation or parole. We are going to find a reason to remove them from the neighborhood.

“The second thing is we’re going to have an increased visibility within those particular neighborhoods that have the prevalence of shootings.

“And then, third, we are going to be doing some undercover operations.”

Dyer said Fresno is blessed with some of the finest police officers in the nation. He said Fresno cops are well aware that controversial police-citizen incidents in cities such as Ferguson and Baltimore have emboldened critics of police departments.

At the same time, Dyers said, Fresno police will continue to build relationships with Fresnans as part of their crime-fighting, neighborhood-improving strategy.

That means, among other things, finding out what’s going on in those neighborhoods.

“We have a number of ways to receive information, as well as to develop intelligence on individuals,” Dyer said. “We can do that through social media of gang members, which we monitor on a daily basis. We also have information being provided to us from what we refer to as ‘helpers’ within the community. People often times provide us with information and they remain anonymous. And we certainly have a lot of information provided to us through our Crime Stoppers tip line.

“We know that it requires relationships between officers and citizens that allow us to gather the information that we need that we can effectively utilize as intelligence to go after and target gang members. That’s a constant battle for us to achieve.”

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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