Fresno police using technology to see crime before arriving

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As pandemic restrictions ease, events including prom, baptisms, even Quinceneras are keeping the staff at downtown's Femme Formal Dress and Accessories busy.

"Even on the weekdays, it feels like a Saturday where everyone just comes in," says employee Saira Vargas.

That means longer and sometimes later hours for downtown employees and they say that has left them open to more criminal activity.

It was just last week Vargas' manager had to call 911.

Vargas said, "She told me he was snooping around. He had been there for hours, actually just standing in the same spot looking into the store."

Police responded immediately but now they have a new tool, bringing them eyes on the incident before arriving.

Saira adds, "That makes you feel more secure and safe at work, just like there's evidence to back up if something happens."

Closed for two years because of budget shortfalls and staff limitations, the Real-Time Crime Center at Fresno Police headquarters sat vacant, until now.

Chief Paco Balderrama announced the re-activation of the program. He says it will maximize bike patrols already in the downtown area.

"We want to promote a culture of safety. You can come downtown, open up a business and make the downtown area a little more vibrant," said Balderrama.

With 21 additional sets of eyes and counting, the tools to reduce crime also benefit officer safety.

"When an officer is going to a call, they don't know what to expect. They don't know what they're going to encounter, and our tactical dispatchers can give them that information, can give them suspect information, vehicle information before they even get there," added Balderrama.

Monitoring the downtown cameras is just a start.

If the department gets the funding they've asked for, they hope to upgrade the software that powers the center and patch in hundreds of cameras located throughout the city, including at city hall, FAX bus stations and malls.

Chief Balderrama added, "We're focused on reducing property and violent crime, and this is something we're going to continue on."

This comes as the department is focusing on a long-term plan of hiring 120 officers over the next 15 months. That includes filling 57 vacancies. Expect to see a recruitment campaign in the coming weeks.
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