All Fresno officers deploying to fight violence

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A dramatic increase in violent crime has forced Fresno police to change their approach. Now, it's every officer on the streets to stem the tide of rising gang violence.

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Starting Monday, just about every Fresno police officer will be getting in uniform and patrolling the streets to curb the violence, especially in certain hot spots.

Police have seen a couple shootings at Quigley Park in the last month, so it's one area where they'll be focused with about 25 to 30 more officers on the streets every day.

Two times in two weeks, crime scene tape has blocked off a neighborhood near Quigley Park after gunfire. Two men are now in custody, but Fresno police investigators say someone else could pick up where those men left off.

"We started seeing a real rise in violence around Quigley Park and a lot of it's centered around the black gangs, Hispanic gangs," said Lt. Mark Salazar.

The park and the entire northwest policing district are hot spots for gang violence over the last month. Police say they've responded to 32 shootings connected to gangs or taggers during that time. 11 of them have been in the northwest district.

Residents who aren't caught up in the gang activity are worried they could get caught in the crossfire. Gordon Burns says he mostly keeps his kids inside at night.

"We're not scared," Burns said. "It's just the less you're present out there around the street running around, the less likely you're going to have problems."

Uniformed police have already started saturating certain neighborhoods and their numbers are going to grow even more next week.

Chief Jerry Dyer says he's deploying everyone -- detectives, union reps, office staff -- everyone, onto the streets, specifically targeting gang hot spots.

Fresno police launched a similar operation targeting gangs in 2006. Dyer says they locked up a lot of gang members and the violence dipped for quite a while, but shrinking prison space statewide is opening old wounds.

"Those same individuals are getting back out, going back into their neighborhoods carrying the same grudges and involved in shooting with some of their rival gangs," Dyer said.

Police say violence often spikes in the summer, so they're hoping to intervene before the violence gets any worse.

Chief Dyer says the operation definitely takes away from some investigative units, but it's temporary and necessary.

Homicide investigators and some undercover officers will still be dedicated to their normal jobs.

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