City of Fresno off to violent, deadly start in 2021

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The violence that plagued 2020 has followed the city of Fresno into the new year.

We're only a few weeks into 2021 and the city has already had 12 homicides - that's a 300% increase compared to this time last year.

"The calendar started, but the violence didn't stop, so the year ended with a bang and it just came in," said Aaron Foster, program coordinator for Advanced Peace.

Four of them happened this past weekend within the span of 48 hours.

The most recent was early Tuesday morning in central Fresno.

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A majority of those murders have occurred south of Shaw and police say most were gang-related.

"Although we did have a very violent weekend, four homicides without within 48 hours, I can tell you that none of those are just random happenstances of violent crimes," says Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.

Balderrama said his department plans to saturate those areas and use crime data to be more proactive, while also increasing community involvement.

The chief also mentioned that more than 25 percent of the guns used in homicides are stolen or homemade ghost guns with no serial numbers.

That's something he also wants to change.

DJ Criner, senior pastor at Saint Rest Baptist Church, said the pandemic has made matters worse.

Community centers have been temporarily closed, and distance learning has also left youth with more time on their hands.

But the problem goes beyond COVID.

"We have always had an issue, a serious issue in Fresno, when it comes to violence, when it comes to gangs when it comes to the lack of resources that people need to have in communities of color or disenfranchised communities," he said.

Advanced Peace helps at-risk youth find better life choices.

Foster said guns have been popularized by pop culture.

"We have restless young men and women with nothing to do and it is very popular to be a brazen gun-toter right now," he said.

So far this year, Fresno police have made 72 felony and 121 misdemeanor arrests.

55 were gang-related.

But Shawn Robinson with Kids Under Pressure says this is just a temporary fix.

He believes more needs to be done in the way of rehabilitation, including more funding given to grassroots movements that uplift youth and communities as a whole.

"These are the same things that they have been doing," he said. "I think that has to change."

In an effort to curb violence community advocates are also asking the public to do their part.

If you see something, say something.

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The city has already had 12 homicides just five weeks into the new year - that's a 300-percent increase compared to this time last year.

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