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Gang suppression unit hits Fresno streets

Tactical officers are on patrol throughout Fresno. They're looking to pull guns, gang members and drugs off Valley streets.
Tactical officers are on patrol throughout Fresno. They're looking to pull guns, gang members and drugs off Valley streets.

Right now, the department is one month into a special summer gang suppression effort. So far there have been more than 100 weapons recovered, most of them in the past few weeks.

"I have my guys out looking at a couple of spots that have been active," said Fresno Police Sgt. Brian Valles. He is on patrol as part of the Violent Crime Impact Team, or VCIT.

Just a few hours into the Friday patrol and a handful of people have been arrested. "I guess they had a couple of people run into some apartments," Sgt. Valles said.

Officers say they approached a known criminal, but he ran from them. They have reason to enter the unit since the man is on probation, officers said.

One man was taken into custody for probation violations; another man was arrested for drug paraphernalia possession. And a woman was arrested as a parolee at-large. Officers also found meth hidden in her bra.

"A lot of these females will conceal for their boyfriend, for their male friends," said Officer Sylvia Martinez. "They see a male officer and they know a male officer cannot go inside their bra...until they see me."

And it's not just drugs; police say they often find the women hiding, smuggling and even buying guns for their men.

"Our job is to be proactive," Valles said. "We're not a reactive team. We intentionally put ourselves in the areas where we know gang factions hang out, loiter."

Chief Jerry Dyer announced the gang enforcement efforts earlier in the week with a massive display of more than 90 seized weapons, ranging from small handguns to high powered assault rifles.

Back on the streets, a traffic stop led VCIT officers to arrest a man suspected in a jewelry store heist last year. It's proactive police work, the department says, responsible for cutting violent crime by 12 percent this year.

These tactical officers say gang members are spread all across the city now, so their targets are not in one particular part of Fresno.

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