You may notice more police on patrol in Fresno starting Monday. It's part of a new plan to cut down on violent crime, which has spiked in the last few weeks. Chief Jerry Dyer is taking officers away from their desks and putting them on patrol. The idea is that higher visibility of police on the streets will scare criminals into cleaning up their act.
It's a new assignment for Officer John De Luca. As of Monday, he's patrolling hot spots in southeast Fresno to crack down on crime.
"So far we've taken one gun off the street. Although it was a bb gun, they were walking through neighborhoods firing at stop signs, dogs and houses," said Officer De Luca.
Normally a high school resource officer at two continuation schools in Fresno, he'll devote all his time now to this operation. His job is to go into some of the most crime-riddled areas and be seen.
"Just make yourself known, be highly visible and then move on to the next hot spot," said De Luca.
He says police presence in a neighborhood can cut crime for up to two hours. About 25 detectives in the department are ditching their desks to help clean up the streets. The increase in patrols comes after a month full of heavy violence, including 36 shootings and eight murders. De Luca gets out of his car to talk to one man in a park who has several Bulldog tattoos and a knife.
"He claims to be a gang member, though not active, and he carries that knife for protection," said De Luca.
At times, his main objective takes a back-burner as he deals with other incidents. He's the first officer at an injury accident, then later he sees heavy smoke coming from an S.U.V. A woman is driving on her rim. She has five young children with her, so De Luca makes sure they're all okay and gives them stickers.
"The officer is everything. I can't even believe he came over and helped us," said Jillian Garabedian, who was driving.
Then it's back into the neighborhoods, looking for trouble.
"I work for the City of Fresno and I'll go wherever it needs me," said De Luca.
This new operation shouldn't put too much of a strain on the department since most of the detectives are only taking two patrol shifts per month.