Advance Peace gets funding from Fresno as part of youth violence intervention

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Friday, October 21, 2022
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The task of reducing violence in Fresno is now shared by the police department and 13 organizations, including Advance Peace.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The task of reducing violence in Fresno is now shared by the police department and 13 organizations working with young people -- including Advance Peace, which was at the center of controversy earlier this year.

The organizations will split $1.5 million for youth programs.

After a deadly gunfight at a north Fresno bowling alley this February, the threat of more violence grew.

Advance Peace operatives say they reached out to some of the people who might get involved in violence and calmed down the situation.

"This is the only organization that is working directly to stop," said Rev. Simon Biasell of Woven Community Church. "Intervention from violence repeating."

Advance Peace was originally slated to get $950,000 in city funding this year, but saw its reputation damaged by the arrest of Leonard Smith.

RELATED: Gang conspiracy investigation could hamper violence prevention organization

The Advance Peace employee was charged with conspiracy to commit murder in April.

By June, the funding was gone.

But Fresno faith and community leaders pushed for ways to keep the program funded and at least some city councilmembers were easily convinced.

"I know that Advance Peace changes lives," said Councilmember Tyler Maxwell. "I know that they save lives. And I know they save our city taxpayer dollars by preventing these crimes, violent crimes, gun-related crimes before they ever take place."

Mayor Jerry Dyer sat with Advance Peace leaders at Thursday's city council meeting and supported the group getting a quarter of the funding from new grants aimed at keeping young people out of trouble.

"There are 13 organizations that are being funded with the $1.5 million," said Dyer. "Each of them fit a certain niche within our community that is needed, from prevention to intervention."

With guarantees that police are on board and that the money won't be used to pay stipends as an incentive to keep gang members inactive, city council unanimously approved the funding.

Aaron Foster says that'll help Advance Peace give kids a chance to dream instead of feeling stuck in the streets.

"We're reaching out to youth because our shooters are becoming younger and we want to give them alternatives to gun violence, as they deserve," Foster said.

Foster says Advance Peace's work with youth is already underway, but this money could help accelerate it and reduce violence even further.