A shoot­ing left two dead, but one of Fresno’s worst neigh­bor­hoods is im­prov­ing

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY THE FRESNO BEE EDITORIAL BOARD

Agroup­ing of can­dles and some home­made signs adorn a drive­way at a West Shaw condo com­plex, put there to honor the mem­ory of Pe­ni­amina “Ben” Romero.

The 17-year-old was killed just out­side his home last Mon­day in yet an­other ap­palling shoot­ing in Fresno, and while po­lice aren’t call­ing it gang re­lated, the sus­pect was be­lieved to be a gang mem­ber. A man who was with the teen, Jesse Vil­lanueva, 28, was also shot dead. A 13-year-old was shot in the leg and is re­cov­er­ing. Po­lice on Thurs­day cap­tured the sus­pect – he is an 18year-old Fresno man.

In the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math, a po­lice lieu­tenant told re­porters that the West Shaw Estates con­dos were “the worst apart­ment com­plex in Fresno.” Po­lice Chief Jerry Dyer walked that back a day later, say­ing things were im­prov­ing and steps were be­ing taken to keep the pos­i­tive mo­men­tum go­ing.

Vi­o­lence is not new at West Shaw Estates. Yet de­spite the lat­est slay­ings there, West Shaw Estates has the po­ten­tial to be a model for im­prov­ing other crime-rid­den neigh­bor­hoods in Fresno.

Some back­ground: West Shaw Estates, near Shaw and Marks, opened in the 1970s and of­fered the chance of home own­er­ship to young fam­i­lies and first-time buy­ers. It con­sists of more than 200 con­do­mini­ums, con­trolled by more than 100 own­ers. When West Shaw Estates opened, a condo could be pur­chased for just un­der $40,000.

Many of those units were bought by out-of-town own­ers, who in turn rented out their prop­er­ties. There was no prop­erty man­ager to screen ten­ants, since the res­i­dences were in­di­vid­u­ally owned. Peo­ple with crim­i­nal back­grounds be­gan mov­ing in.

Fast for­ward to three years ago: Dyer said West Shaw Estates was a ma­jor prob­lem area and at the top of the depart­ment’s list for calls. Of­fi­cers were rush­ing there at least twice a night, some­times more. Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, from Au­gust 2015 through July 2017, there were 1,482 calls for ser­vice – an av­er­age of 62 per month.

The prop­erty man­age­ment com­pany and its se­cu­rity team dur­ing that pe­riod were in­ef­fec­tual in deal­ing with bad renters, Dyer ex­plained. Those ten­ants were a mi­nor­ity, but had out­sized neg­a­tive im­pact. “The ma­jor­ity of peo­ple liv­ing at West Shaw Estates are good peo­ple, rais­ing their fam­i­lies and try­ing to do the right thing,” Dyer said.

Many of the units were in dis­re­pair, so at the end of 2016 po­lice and city code en­force­ment of­fi­cers went through each home to iden­tify prob­lems, and ma­jor fixes were made to struc­tures and plumb­ing and elec­tri­cal sys­tems.

Then this past March Re­gency Prop­erty Man­age­ment took over and be­gan clean­ing up com­mon ar­eas than had been left to de­cay. Re­gency was the firm called to re­store the Sum­mer­set Vil­lage Apart­ments in Novem­ber 2015 when ten­ants there dis­cov­ered they had no heat or hot wa­ter.

Plans were made to in­stall video cam­eras around the con­dos that will feed images di­rectly into the po­lice depart­ment’s real-time crime cen­ter. Those cam­eras are sched­uled to go in this month, Dyer said, and will help of­fi­cers re­spond quickly at the first sign of trou­ble.

A new on-site se­cu­rity firm has been hired, and its staff will team with an off-duty of­fi­cer from FPD who is on a three­month con­tract to pro­vide ex­tra help, Dyer said.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the north­west po­lice sta­tion is just about a block away. Dyer has asked its 85 of­fi­cers to drive through West Shaw Estates as they come and go to add their pres­ence to the neigh­bor­hood.

In the first seven months of last year, Fresno po­lice re­sponded to 400 calls at West Shaw Estates. Through July this year there have been 307 calls – a 23 per­cent re­duc­tion, Dyer noted.

Still, five shoot­ings have hap­pened this year, and Dyer ad­mits prob­lem ten­ants con­tinue to be a chal­lenge. Po­lice can as­sist prop­erty own­ers try­ing to evict bad renters, and that will need to be done rig­or­ously as the ul­ti­mate an­swer to im­prov­ing West Shaw Estates is hav­ing de­cent ten­ants.

Po­lice, city of­fi­cials, West Shaw Estates res­i­dents and prop­erty own­ers must keep the fo­cus on im­prov­ing the neigh­bor­hood. Only that way does West Shaw Estates be­come a safe place where any­one might want to live.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.