City of Fresno sees major spike in robberies

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A huge spike in robberies is alarming leaders of the Fresno Police Department.

"Prison is not changing these individuals," said Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer. "People are going to prison and going to jail, getting out, staying addicted and continuing to commit crime."

Chief Dyer held a news conference Sunday to announce the arrests of four robbery suspects. The four suspects are accused of robbing a dozen stores and banks during the month of May. They're not the only ones. Investigators say just in the last two weeks there have been 64 robberies.

Five different surveillance cameras all captured the same suspect -- Robert Spence. The 59-year-old is accused of stealing $10,000 from local banks during the month of May.

"He's been to prison twice. He's more than likely going to go to prison for the rest of his life," said Dyer.

Spence is just one of four people accused of stealing money. Rachel Castillo, 29, Elisha Resendez, 35, and Kenneth Doland, 38, were also arrested for different robberies. Dyer said they're just a few suspects contributing to the rise in crime. So far there have been 380 robberies in the city this year -- a 30-percent increase compared to last year.

"The voters in California were certainly misled when it came to Proposition 47. It was not the Safe Neighborhood in Schools Act after all because our communities are not safer as a result of these individuals roaming our streets," said Dyer.

Proposition 47 is a measure that changed offenses like shoplifting and drug possession from felonies to misdemeanors. Supporters of the measure say it reduces overcrowding in state prisons. But Dyer said lack of consequences is resulting in braver criminals.

Another reason, Dyer said, could be the recent nationwide criticism of police officers. He fears some officers may not be as aggressive in their enforcement efforts.

"I believe in Fresno we have a very supportive police community of our police department, but I have to believe that it still weighs on the minds of the officers when they're out there doing their job," said Dyer.

For now, the four suspects are facing felony charges, and Dyer said it's their goal to keep them in jail and off the streets.

One common factor for all the robbery arrests, Dyer said, is the suspects all confessed to a meth addiction, which he believes is the reason they were stealing money.
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