Fresno

Fresno looks past arrests, threats, OKs $375k for controversial gun violence program

Controversial anti-gun violence program Advance Peace received a $375,000 grant from the City of Fresno on Thursday. 

The Fresno City Council unanimously approved the grant to Advance Peace, which is operated by the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission and will provide intervention services to at least 60 youth in the city to interrupt the cycle of retaliatory violence. 

One of the major controversial elements in Advance Peace – the stipend to would-be shooters – is not supported by the city’s grant. 

Ahead of the unanimous vote, Councilman Garry Bredefeld asked City Manager Georgeanne White if the city administration had its concerns about Advance Peace addressed. 

That question stemmed from a June statement from White detailing issues with Advance Peace and signaling the city’s intent to not support the program anymore. 

One of the major issues revolved around Advance Peace employee Leonard Smith, who was arrested in April and charged with conspiracy to commit two murders. 

At the time, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama told White that the police department would no longer be able to work with Advance Peace or share any information due to troubling issues that came to light during the Smith investigation, such as the misuse of sensitive information. 

But White said Thursday that those concerns have been addressed and are no longer an issue for Mayor Jerry Dyer’s administration. 

“While this program has several elements of the Advance Peace model – actually a lot of the elements – the issues that we were most concerned about with regard to the police chief, because this is a youth program and because there is not that direct relationship with PD, then we’re fine,” White said. “We think this is going to work out well. I think the more prevention and youth prevention also we have the better. Our concerns have been addressed of this program.” 

That comment from White, though, drew a question from Councilwoman Soria involving there being no direct relationship between the police department and Advance Peace. 

“I thought that in order for this program to be effective there has to be a direct relationship in the sense that they’re working together collaboratively,” Soria said. 

White clarified that previously the police department was more direct in providing information to Advance Peace, which the program would use to try to prevent further violence. 

But this grant – which is effectively the city’s support – does not include any formal relationship. 

Dyer clarified that there is a cooperative relationship between the police department and Advance Peace, but nothing to the extent of information sharing that was previously problematic. 

“I don’t want there to be any misperception out there that there’s no communication between the police and Advance Peace or any organization,” Dyer said. “There is, and it happens on a daily basis. I know that I’m in communication with the police department as well.” 

The $375,000 grant is part of a larger $1.5 million grant that the city is awarding to 13 local organizations, which are listed as follows: 

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of Fresno County – Phoenix Prevention Program, $165,000
  • Every Neighborhood Partnership – Recreational Resilience Saturday Sports, $75,000
  • Focus Forward – Pipeline to Opportunity (P2O), $50,000
  • Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC) – Advance Peace Program, $375,000
  • Fresno Police Activities League (PAL) – Sports & Leadership Academy Programming, $75,000
  • HandsOn Central California/Fresno Street Saints – Educational Enrichment & Community Liaison Mentoring/Safe Passage, $75,000
  • Hope Now for Youth – Workforce Development Interventions for At-Risk Young Men, $130,000
  • Live Again Fresno – Change in Course, $150,000
  • Resiliency Center – Trauma Informed Clinical Counseling and Training, $50,000
  • Take a Stand Committee – Teen Summit and A Mother’s Cry, $50,000
  • Trauma Research and Education Foundation of Fresno – Expanding Hospital Based Violence Intervention; Closing the Revolving Door of Violence, $130,000
  • West Fresno Family Resource Center – Sweet Potato Social Enterprise & Food for Thought, $150,000
  • Integral Community Solutions Institute – Evaluation Services, $25,000
Daniel Gligich is a reporter for The San Joaquin Valley Sun, focusing on Fresno State Athletics and the southern San Joaquin Valley. Email him at daniel.gligich@sjvsun.com.