Illegal gambling machines, guns, drugs found in Fresno homeless encampment

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A neighborhood in central Fresno has been living in fear because of a homeless encampment across the street from their homes.

"We want them out because there are a lot of kids and then there's a school next to us," said Emily Campos. She lives in one of the homes on Tyler St. between Cedar Ave. and First St, right along Highway 180.

It's also right across the street from a homeless encampment.

"Scary because sometimes we don't even know what to do, we're like, 'Do we go outside or not'?" said Campos.

The Fresno Police Department and Mayor Jerry Dyer said recently residents nearby have been calling them, complaining about burglaries, drug sales and prostitution.

"The residents who lived in that area, quite frankly, were living in fear," Dyer said.

The Fresno Police Department launched 'Operation Tyler Safe Homes' to combat the crime happening at the encampment.

During the last two weeks, officers watched the encampment and on Wednesday served multiple search warrants.

In the tents, officers found 72 pounds of marijuana, 2 ounces of meth, a stolen firearm and an illegal gaming machine.

At a nearby storage facility connected to the encampment, they found another gaming machine and 14 more pounds of marijuana.

Officials said the street value for the drugs was $150,000.

"The magnitude of the narcotics, I mean it was pretty blatant," said Lt. Stephen Viveros who was out at the encampment while the search warrants were being served.

Police arrested Ly Chann, Chong Moua and Chia Lor related to the search warrants. Police are still looking for Hanepraseuth Hanevichit.

Chann has already been released because of the $0 bail order.

Officials said this operation wasn't about cracking down on people for being homeless, they were looking to arrest criminals who live among the homeless.

"The role of the police department is to provide safety, not just for our workers but for the homeless population that live there," said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.

Mayor Jerry Dyer said as they continue with Project Off-Ramp, relocating people off the sides of the freeways, he said it was important to weed out the serious criminals. "Prior to us relocating these homeless folks who live in the encampment, over to a motel, it was important for us to eradicate that criminal element before we did that.

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Now people who live nearby wait for the encampment to be removed and imagine what their neighborhood will be like without it.

"I think it would be more safer and healthier." said Campos.

Mayor Dyer said the people who are still at the encampment have been notified that crews will be returning in the near future to clear out the area.

Those people will be provided services and a place to stay.
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