Two reports from last week give us a revealing picture of our public safety landscape.
They come just in time for the State of the City luncheon.
The first report came from Police Chief Jerry Dyer. Violent crime in Fresno is down 7.4% through the first four-plus months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016. But the city in recent weeks has been plagued by shootings among gangs battling for turf.
The second report came from the FBI. More and more law enforcement officers across the nation are being targeted for death by criminals. This murderous trend is fueled in significant part by anti-police narratives from the mainstream media and social media.
Dyer on Wednesday held a news conference at Police Headquarters shortly after the department’s monthly Crime View meeting. The monthly Crime View meeting is where the top-ranked cops gather review to 14- and 28-day crime statistics.
“Violent crime is down year to date 7.4%, which is a very good trend,” Dyer told reporters. “After two consecutive years of seeing violent crime increases, we are now starting to see overall violent crime decline. Property crime is down 3.6% year to date. Both of those are encouraging numbers.”
The total number of homicides, rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults year to date (May 10) was 1,013. That compares to a total of 1,094 for the same period of 2016. There have been 25 homicides through May 10, 2017, compared to 15 through the same period of 2016.
However, Dyer added, “in the last 28 days, we have had 51 shootings in our city, which is significant. Thirty-one of those shootings involved gangs. What we have seen is a recent uptick in African-American gangs that are feuding, in particular gangs that we have identified but we are not prepared to announce because we do not want that to hinder some ongoing (investigative) efforts. But we do know that 26 of the shootings involve African-Americans and 17 of those shootings involve Hispanics.”
Dyer said there were eight homicides in the 28-day period ending May 10, compared to two for the preceding 28-day period. He said four of the eight homicides were by Kori Ali Muhammad during a six-day period in April. Three of the remaining four homicides involved gangs, Dyer said.
Dyer gave reporters an example of the varied nature of gunfire in Fresno. On the Saturday night/Sunday morning of the previous weekend, Dyer said, the Soul Brothers motorcycle club rumbled into town for one of their periodic gatherings. Fresno is the perfect spot for such conventions since it’s just about halfway between Southern California and the Bay Area.
“Thousands of motorcycle members come to our city and they occupy a significant number of our hotel and motel rooms around Fresno,” Dyer said. “They also host a lot of parties. What we see from time to time is that those parties attract various gang members, primarily African-American gangs, West Fresno gangs. That was the case this past Saturday night-Sunday morning over at Olive and Crystal (avenues) at the Motel 6.
“There was a large number of individuals, part of the Soul Brothers motorcycle riders. It attracted a lot of gang members. At 2:20 in the morning, there was an incident, a shooting that broke out. Three people were struck (none fatal). All three of those people were taken to the hospital in a party bus that was at the location. We are very fortunate that we did not have a number of other people shot as a result of this incident, because our investigation revealed that there was a total of 110 rounds fired during that incident from multiple firearms. Again, it was very fortunate that we didn’t have more people shot.”
The Bee’s Jim Guy asked if police had any plans in the future to put a damper on the motorcycle clubs’ violent ways.
“It is interesting you should say that because in our Crime View meeting today we had a lengthy conversation about that,” Dyer said. “We have personally met with the leaders of the Soul Brothers motorcycle group/club. We have tried to regulate where they have their events, but often times we are not able to determine where those places are until the last minute. As a result of the attraction of gang members to those events, we are going to take a much more aggressive stance on future motorcycle runs coming to Fresno.
“When I say aggressive stance, I’m going to make sure that we have every single proactive unit, from motor to MAGEC (Multi-Agency Gang Enforcement Consortium) to special response teams to every other detail that we can place out there for the purpose of aggressive enforcement. We know that they drive around our city at high speeds on motorcycles. We’re going to cite those vehicles, tow them when necessary. We’re going to make sure that we have increased police presence at some of these locations where they have gatherings in the hope that we can prevent shootings.”
Dyer noted that police three years ago were responding to trouble at the same Motel 6 when shots rang out. The result, Dyer said, was an officer-involved shooting.
Dyer said officers were out in force this past weekend. They were within a block of the Motel 6 at Olive/Crystal when the shooting started, and responded immediately.
The department will respond even more forcefully when the next motorcycle convention featuring the Soul Brothers comes to Fresno, Dyer said.
“If that is the way they choose to come to Fresno and disrupt our city,” the Chief said, “then we’re going to respond in a way that will discourage them from coming to Fresno.”
My thought as Dyer spoke: Fresno has a lock on the Soul Brothers convention, but can’t keep the Future Farmers of America convention.