Fresno police beef up patrols, hold events after gang-related shootings

Police say there were at least five gang-related shootings in Fresno in an eight-hour period on Thursday, including one where a 4-year-old boy was injured.
Authorities say there were at least five gang-related shootings in Fresno in an eight-hour period on Thursday, including one where a 4-year-old boy was injured.

While Fresno police are out if full force patrolling neighborhoods Friday night, the department is teaming up with organizations like Building Healthy Communities to hold events that give youth in troubled neighborhoods a positive alternative to committing crimes.

Officers like Sgt. Steve Presser are beefing up patrols in Southeast Fresno this weekend following a string of shootings in recent days and weeks.

"What we're hoping to do is impact the people; the people who are out there committing these crimes," said Presser. "We're hoping to find, locate, take them to jail."

He says the department has brought in additional resources to focus on gang retaliation after a Church Avenue home was hit not only once but twice on Thursday, and a 4-year-old boy was caught in the crossfire.

"Obviously the child is an unintended target, but it's something that concerns all of us as parents and people of the community," said Presser.

Especially after four more shootings occurred the same day, which is why officers are now getting involved in events like Midnight Basketball -- a summer program designed to keep the most at-risk kids off the streets and out of trouble.

"What we're trying to do is give youth something to do on a Friday night. So instead of being on the streets they can come here, have a good time, and play some basketball in a nice, safe environment," said Fresno Police Youth Liaison Michael Martin.

This is the department's first year co-hosting the four-week tournament, and so far the response has been overwhelming.

"A big turnout. We've probably had over 100 youth show up and adults, nine teams, so it's a good turnout," said Martin.

Participants say it's not only a great way to spend their summer, but get to know people from all over the city. It's also helped paint a more positive image of Fresno police.

"You can be more comfortable with them; coming out here and being able to mingle with them as well and not just on the streets," said Broderick Frazier, a youth basketball player.

This was the championship game and the last one of the season, but because of the positive response and ongoing relationship with Building Healthy Communities, the department plans to bring Midnight Basketball back again next summer and for a longer season.

Even with this recent rash of shootings, Fresno PD says that violent crime is down more than 12 percent. The patrols will continue all weekend long.

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