Visalia Police get outside crime fighting help


Candles on the corner of Prospect and Conyer Streets in north Visalia -- mark the spot where someone gunned down 24-year-old Roger "Bo" Weinert this past weekend. Visalia's first murder victim of 2011 continues to be mourned by neighbors and friends.

Neighbor, Alice Aleman-Fisher said, "Whoever did this we want justice to be served for this young man he didn't deserve for that to happen to him."

Family friend, Rosie woods said, "He was a great kid good hearted wouldn't hurt anybody and this is a tremendous loss for him and his family."

Police Chief Colleen Mestas hopes new tactics that helped reduce gang crimes in 2010 will help them solve this and other crimes. Mestas says the department kicked its crime fighting tools into high gear after a deadly beginning to 2010. "So far this year we started off with one versus three this time last year so we're hoping not to see any more increase."

In late August, the Visalia Police Department with the help of state and federal agents conducted an anti gang crackdown called Operation Street Sweeper. Chief Mestas declared the operation a "sweeping" success in reducing gang crime and lowering the city's murder rate.

In 2009 Visalia had 10 homicides, as compared to 6 in 2010. You can see residential burglaries also went down.

Chief Mestas said, "And we would have never been able to be where we are today without the assistance that we got."

Chief Mestas says they've also seen an increase in the number of tips from the community to help them solve crimes. The department also gets a lot of information from their new anonymous tip website.

While the department improved with gang-related crimes, others went up. Vehicle burglaries were up 8%, auto thefts skyrocketed 14%. Commercial burglaries also rose.

One high profile case involved thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen from ROSS clothing store and CVS Pharmacy this year. Surveillance cameras caught the suspects in the act.

Visalia Police hope to get more outside help in 2011 to prevent more crimes like the murder of "Bo" Weinert -- from happening.

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