Once controversial, Advance Peace gets city funding to tackle Fresno violence

The idea is to target people in violent lifestyles who want change by funding mentorship, social services, employment opportunities, and education.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Just as violent crimes spike in Fresno, the city is ready to take a new approach to stopping the violence at the root of the problem.

City council officially approved $125,000 for Advance Peace on Thursday.

The program, credited with cutting gun violence in half in a Bay Area city, has officially arrived in Fresno.

Advance Peace has scientific backing and now, financial backing from Fresno's city council.

"This couldn't be more perfect timing given the increase in crime in our community," said Council Member Esmeralda Soria. "The violent crime statistics have gone up tremendously."

Fresno has seen more than twice as many shootings in 2020 as it did last year, but police are trying to take a more nuanced approach for their response, so Advance Peace could play a major role.

"It's almost impossible to pinpoint a certain group of people, but we have people we have on our 'shooter' list that we're making contact with," said Aaron Foster.

Foster is one of the agents of change from Advance Peace.

He says the violence right now seems more random than usual, coming from young 'shooters' and not the 'killers' they usually track, but their outreach could be keeping the shootings from escalating.

The local program also got funding from the state and private donors, and it'll be run through the Economic Opportunities Commission (EOC).

"I believe truly everyone if they have an opportunity to be successful and get the right resources, they're going to flourish," said Emilia Reyes, the CEO of the EOC.

Mayor Lee Brand and police chief Andy Hall supported the program after ensuring it won't pay gang members to not commit crimes.

Instead, the idea is to target people in violent lifestyles who want change by funding mentorship, social services, employment opportunities, and education.

Foster says there's no cookie-cutter approach, no predetermined program for reprogramming people.

They'll just reach out into the community and give people positive examples and a future to dream about, even if they have very lofty goals.

"There's a million people trying to be Kanye," he said. "Let's do something like own a business that can help these million people reach their goal so we can have a livable life for you. You know, own a studio. Entrepreneurship is big. You never see business owners doing drive-by shooting."

Advance Peace set a goal of 10% less gun violence by 2022, and they have a community meeting Oct. 28 to figure out the best ways to address the outbreak right now.
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