FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A spike in shootings and homicides made for a dangerous start to 2021, but Fresno police chief Paco Balderrama says some of the numbers are starting to trend downward.
RELATED: City of Fresno off to violent, deadly start in 2021
He attributes the decrease to the gang operation that went in place just days after he took the position in January.
"We started a gang operation by the 15th and in February we only had two homicides. So far this month we've only had two," he says.
So far this year, there have been 123 shootings, which on average is about 50 shootings a month since January.
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However, the chief says the majority of the incidents happened in January.
Last year, the department saw 732 shootings for the entire year, which the chief says would average at about 61 a month.
Homicides, however, are still high, with three times more incidents compared to this same time frame last year.
This year, there have been 17 homicides, 11 of which were gang-related.
RELATED: Homicides up 325% in 2021 compared to same time frame in 2020, Fresno police says
There were only four during the same time frame last year.
Chief Balderrama says they have several tactics in place to curb the numbers along with their gang operation, one of those being more targeted policing.
"We want to use information and intelligence stats and data. We don't patrol random neighborhoods to lower violent crime, we try to be more strategic. We find the people doing these crimes, then get out and focus on another area," he says.
But combing for crime does come with another set of challenges.
"We've used up a lot of overtime to do this, because we don't have a lot of police officers to do this. One thing I'm going to advocate for is to make this community safer. We cant do it with the number of officers we have," the chief says.
Currently, the department has 863 officers, but 70 of them are on long-term absences.
Balderrama says with the violent crime and number of gang members in the city, they ideally need 1,000 officers to dramatically lower numbers.
Balderrama says they've added more detectives to the homicide investigations unit since they were seeing an increasing number of cases last year, but an unusually low clearance rate.
State Assemblymember Jim Patterson says when he was the mayor of Fresno in the late 90s, violent crime also reached a high.
But while the crimes are similar, so are the solutions.
Patterson says the department needs more resources to combat crime.
"We gave them the technology they didn't have, like helicopters and other things," he says.
And for the department, those much-needed resources come in the form of more officers.
Fresno sees drop in shootings in recent months
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