How Fresno Police's "zero tolerance" citywide gang sweep led to 76 felony arrests

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A 10-day sweep meant Fresno police officers flooded the streets citywide to tackle gang violence head-on.

"We have places throughout the city that have experienced spikes in street gang activity and violence, and that's been in every district in Fresno," said Lt. Steve Card.

The operation, which added up to 50 officers per night, was prompted by the shooting of a 12-year-old girl in southeast Fresno that occurred two weeks ago.

"We made 76 arrests, 119 misdemeanor arrests, 163 probation and parole searches," Card said.

The proactive approach doesn't stop at search and seizure. Police have stepped up their community engagement in hopes of getting to kids before gangs do.

Also patrolling the streets, counselors with Hope Now for Youth.

Senior Vocational Placement Counselor Johnny Trujillo says the line of work can be dangerous if mistaken for an officer or rival gang member, but the reward is greater than the risk.

"There have been occasions where they've pulled out guns, but we were able to say you looking for a job? It kinda breaks down the barrier," Trujillo said.

The faith-based nonprofit holds support groups and works with close to 300 employers on job placement for those looking to turn their lives around. It's something Trujillo did himself.

He says he got involved with gangs when he was just six years old. It was a lifestyle his father introduced to him.

He was 25 when his then-girlfriend and daughter inspired him to change his ways.

"There was nothing I could do for them. I was going to jail and they were stuck on the streets, and I was helpless," he said.

Now the counselor is using his shared experience to help others, including his father, break the cycle.

"There was a different love that was shared. Different acceptance of who I was. They helped me. They were sharing stuff that I've never known," he said.

As for what's next, police tell Action News there is still plenty of work to be done, but they are optimistic with an already 30 percent reduction in gang shootings.
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