On the second story of Fresno Police Headquarters, there’s a darkened room lit up with screens that show 21 camera views. Each screen displays a different part of downtown. This monitoring system is called the Real Time Crime Center.
The center was first opened in 2015, but had to shut down in 2019 due to budget and staffing issues. Since taking office in January, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama says he noticed the center was going unused.
“Once I saw that this was available to us, and upon the recommendation of my deputy chiefs, we felt it was the right time to open it up,” he said at a press briefing Wednesday.
And it’s just in time, Balderrama said, to address a recent uptick in crimes in downtown.
“Compared to last year, we’ve had an increase in sex offenses, burglaries, vehicle burglaries and auto thefts just in the downtown area,” he said.
The center will be staffed with people monitoring incidents in real time. Balderrama said it gives officers an advantage on the ground.
“When an officer is going to a call, they don’t know what’s there. They don't know what to expect, they don't know what they’re going to encounter and our tactical dispatchers can give them that information, can give them suspect information, vehicle information before they ever get there,” he said.
The department has added an additional 30 police officers on bike patrols centered in the downtown area. It’s all part of an effort to make downtown safer and more business-friendly, Balderrama said.
“I know the city has a lot of plans to upgrade, revitalize downtown and I think a part of that is safety. I think as we make the downtown area safer, it’s going to open it up for merchants, for investors, for people who want to start businesses downtown, so that’s what we want to do,” he said.
For now, three people work at the center, but Balderrama hopes to add more staff in the new budget year. He said more officers are needed on patrol and has a plan to hire 120 police officers over the next 15 months.