Fresno Police Department's POP team deployed to reduce crime this weekend

The new approach could include extra patrols, community policing, and having officers in plain clothing.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- 2020 was a record-breaking year for shootings in Fresno.

Now, 2021 is also off to a violent start, with five murders in just the first week.

Police are now trying out POP teams, or Problem Oriented Policing Teams, throughout the city, looking for different ways to respond to crime and getting criminals behind bars sooner.

"To see 5 murders in the first start of the year - it's unheard of," says Fresno Police Lt. Steve Viveros.

This weekend, the department will have 40 officers working as a city-wide POP team targeting areas with higher crime rates.

"We froze staffing, we're not allowing them to take time off and we're using that overage to deploy them strategically," says Viveros.

The POP team started up this week and each policing district was told to identify at least three problem areas, then find different ways to prevent and respond to crime.

That could include extra patrols, community policing, and having officers in plain clothing.

"With POP, they're detectives. They can author the search warrants, they're going prelim, investigate that call and instead of waiting to author search warrants, we're doing it on the spot," says Viveros.

On Tuesday, the teams were put in action when they responded to a 'shots fired' call in southeast Fresno.

Officers arrested this man for allegedly firing a gun inside an apartment, and nearly injuring others.

"Our particular team arrived within minutes of this location when the call came for service," says Sgt. Paul Cervantes.

Lt. Viveros says in addition to the five murders this year, they've had 21 shootings just last week.

These new POP teams come just weeks after violent crime suppression operation wrapped up, netting 1,500 arrests with 400 of those being gang members.

"It's not going to be tolerated, not in the city of Fresno. Once they're on our radar, they're going to stay on our radar," he says.

Viveros says the extra enforcement will be in place through Sunday.

The department says 70% of the criminals they arrested from their previous operation have been released, but could not confirm that they were all due to the zero-dollar bail policy in place within Fresno County.

The POP team was out in full force on Friday night.

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A violent start to the New Year has Fresno Police officers ramping up patrols in hopes of stopping crime before it starts.

On Friday, officers were dispatched to Fashion Fair Mall for a gun disturbance.

By the evening, that POP team was working to find evidence related to that investigation.

"And we will be in particular spots in Fresno that have seen a significant increase in violent crime, in addition to that we will also be in locations where gang members are likely to appear and to hang out," said Lt. Andre Benson.

The POP team will be immediately responding to all gun-related incidents, shots fired or shootings.

Benson ensures families they are working hard to reduce the violence.

He says if you have any information in regards to recent homicides, or shootings, or any info about gang activity, please contact Fresno PD.
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