After a spate of shootings over the last several weeks in Fresno, police Chief Jerry Dyer has announced an aggressive plan to crackdown on gang activity in the region, the Fresno Bee reports. Surely everyone wants public safety but such a crackdown should not lead to overzealous and misguided law enforcement efforts that ostracize the community.
The Bee reports that, as of Monday, December 1, "there had been 29 shootings in the city over the past three weeks," many of them are allegedly gang related. Fresno police will increase their patrols of suspected "gang" territory and begin aggressively serving warrants that have been issued against alleged gang members.
Of course Chief Dyer is concerned about public safety and he should be lauded for any efforts to keep the city safe. And the number of shootings is disturbing. However, a massive roundup and aggressive tactics may not yield results. Such tactics may lead to greater antagonism between the police and certain neighborhoods. When the police may need trust and information from citizens, they may be pushing away the very people they need. Furthermore, when a "crackdown" becomes the solution, it is typically a sign of a much more complex problem that cannot be solved overnight. According to the Bee report, Dyer seems to understand the stakes and the need for a multi-faceted approach. He is quoted as saying that officers need to make contact with people in the community to assure them that they are standing with them against the violence in their neighborhoods. Balancing these kinds of relationships with aggressive enforcement will require deft skill. The coming weeks will reveal if the police have this skill.