Violent Crime Spikes in Fresno

Fresno, CA In Visalia, violent crime was down one percent last year compared to 2007. Murders were down seventeen percent. In Merced, the level of violent crime stayed the same, but murders jumped 57 percent. In Fresno, violent crime in general and murder specifically both dropped significantly last year.

Calls for service are steady in Fresno even on a Monday night. A woman with a warrant for theft is going to jail ... three month old is caught in the middle of a domestic disturbance ... and a man who police say tried to pedal away from officers drunk is spending the night in custody.

Crime in Fresno may have been down in 2008, but it's spiking in 2009.

Chief Dyer said, "We've seen an increase in robberies within our city. That's very disturbing and we've seen an increase in aggravated assaults. Those two types of violent crimes can create a lot of fear in your community."

Fresno Police have seen a six percent increase in violent crime this year compared to last year at the same time. Sergeant Steve Crawford patrols Southeast Fresno. He's noticed many of the people he's running into on the streets are familiar faces.

"The other trend is I've noticed it seems like a large percentage are on parole or probation. So it's the same people committing the same crimes," said Sergeant Crawford.

In 2008 violent crimes, including murder, rape, and robbery dropped 8.6%. Theft, fraud and forgery were up.

Police Chief Dyer says the economic downturn and state budget crisis are creating a system where prosecutors bogged down with work are not filing some cases and criminals are walking out of jail early without serving their full penalties.

"When one part of the criminal justice system doesn't work, it makes it much more difficult for us to police," said Chief Dyer.

In fact, it's not uncommon for officers to arrest an individual one night and see them again a day or two later.

Sergeant Crawford said, "When they do get released early, they are back out in the same neighborhoods so it has a negative effect on the sending a message. And sometimes it even has a negative effect on those who are victimized because they don't feel like we're following through on our promise to protect them as well as we could."

Police are hopeful once the economy stabilizes, crime will follow suit.

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