Fresno police could open new substation near Tower District

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Desperate economic times forced Fresno police to abandon their post in the Tower District in 2011. (KFSN)

A single decision may have exposed Fresno's Tower District to increased crime,

"It causes us to have significant increased response times to calls," said Fresno police chief Jerry Dyer.

But four years later, the people who live and work in the area may have something new to celebrate. Desperate economic times forced Fresno police to abandon their post in the Tower District in 2011.

A few vans parked in front of the building let you know Fresno police still use the building on Broadway at Elizabeth. But instead of a busy substation housing officers ready to patrol the neighborhood or react to crimes, the building is now just a place to store property and evidence. "We had a central policing district that unfortunately many years ago we had to eliminate when the recession hit," Chief Dyer said.

The substation emptied, and the entire district disappeared.

It didn't take long for the Tower District to see crime spike. "It's been very challenging for us, especially in northwest Fresno because the northwest policing district's boundaries are from McKinley all the way to the river," Dyer said.

The northwest policing district absorbed most of the Tower. It's now 34 square miles with 170,000 people, and even Chief Dyer admits it's pretty tough to patrol from a single substation. Response times have gone up and patrols are thinner, giving would-be criminals the impression they can commit crimes and have time to get away.

Dyer said rebuilding the central district would benefit the entire city, and he knows it'd be a popular move. "I've heard loud and clear for many years from many people who live in that policing district, specifically the Tower District, of how much they miss having police there," he said.

At the Tower District's Free Bird Company record store, Linda Whisenant says they've noticed police have stepped up patrols in the area over the last couple years, but getting a substation nearby would be even more reassuring. "They've done a pretty good job, but there are times when we wish we could have people here quicker and definitely patrolling the area on a regular basis," Whisenant said.

Dyer told Action News he reached out to city manager Bruce Rudd about the idea this week. He's scouted some possible spots for a substation, but it could take quite a while to implement his plan.

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