Fresno city leaders address funding for Advance Peace, mayor says he can't support current model

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dozens of people filled the seats at Fresno's City Hall Monday waiting for the opportunity to speak.

Many were there in support of Advance Peace, an organization aimed at reducing gun violence throughout the city.

"Our community is telling you what we want. We want Advance Peace," said Noel Johnson.

In December, the Fresno City Council allocated $950,000 for Advance Peace to continue their work.

But then in April, an employee of the organization, Leonard Smith, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit murder and two gun crimes.

Prosecutors say Smith shared information with gang members about a police murder investigation.

Shortly after, city leaders decided to redirect the money to other violence prevention programs.

Supporters of Advance Peace say it's unfair punishment.

"What I don't think is fair is for you guys to take away their funding that is much needed for one mistake," said Stephanie Adams-Mitchell.

Mayor Jerry Dyer addressed Advance Peace directly, saying he supports the program, but says he can't continue to support it under the current model.

"Advance Peace intervention specialists have done some great work out there. I know for a fact they've stopped shootings. I know that for a fact." Dyer said.

He's proposing a new system to disperse the $950,000 through grants that will have added parameters.

Money would be awarded based on the organization's ability to meet criteria such as increasing the number of violence intervention workers who respond to gang-related violence, providing work opportunities to formerly incarcerated people, engaging with at-risk youth and more.

Any community-based organization would be able to apply.

That includes the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC), which is the financial agent for Advance Peace.

Dyer says creating this system will create accountability, training, policies, and measurables for the organization's use of funds.

"That allows for standards and expectations to be developed for groups that are going to be involved in intervention work in our community," Dyer said.

Councilmember Miguel Arias asked the Mayor to return to the council within 30 days of the budget being adopted with a formal proposal.

If Mayor Dyer's proposal to disperse funds through grants is approved, Arias also asked that the money isn't given out until approved by the council.

Copyright © 2022 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.