Can limiting liquor store hours help fight Fresno's rising crime?

Fresno City Councilmember Luis Chavez says liquor stores have been a magnet for violent crime lately.

Thursday, October 22, 2020
EMBED <>More Videos

With a major spike in violent crime in Fresno, city leaders are searching for solutions, including curfews for kids and changing the hours alcohol can be sold.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Skyrocketing shootings throughout Fresno have prompted one city councilman to request a 10 pm curfew for minors along with limiting alcohol sales at convenience stores on the weekends.

Councilmember Luis Chavez says the pandemic, combined with unemployment, poverty, kids out of school and 'zero-bail policy' has all contributed to this crime trend.

So he's working on a community-based solution that would limit the hours teens can be out at night and also stop liquor sales at mini-marts after 11 pm on weekends.

Fresno Police say 80% of recent homicides are gang-related. And many of the crimes involved suspects and victims who are in their late teens or early adults.

One of the latest hotspots for gun violence is in southeast Fresno and Chavez wants to take action.

"It used to be that gang members were fighting amongst themselves but now we're at a point where people are scared to go out because they are scared to get caught in the crossfire," said Chavez.

He's asking the city attorney if the council can ask police to enforce a 10 pm curfew every day of the week for those under 18. He also wants to cut off liquor sales at convenience stores at 11 pm on weekends.

Jas Kahlon owns Cavalier Liquor in Calwa. The temporary move would mean locking up his liquor three hours earlier than he has to now.

"It would have some impact but it makes our community safer, I'm supportive of it," Kahlon says.

Chavez says liquor stores in particular have been a problem recently.

"Because as the data shows us, a lot of these shootings have happened at convenience stores and so that's been a big magnet for this activity at late hours of the night," he says.

Kahlon isn't sure alcohol consumption will decline if the measure is passed, especially if restaurants and bars aren't included in the moratorium. Not only that, he believes consumers will find a way around the rule.

"I have a feeling if they aren't able to buy it after 11 they will either buy it before or go to neighboring Clovis or City of Sanger and get it," says Kahlon.

Chavez has already talked to other councilmembers about his idea - he hopes they can vote on it next week.

But he knows it will take more than curfews to end the violence.

Chavez is helping to organize a summit next week to bring churches, nonprofits and other community groups together to try to help confront the violence and approach the problem from various fronts.