Saying it could no longer trust a program designed to reduce gun violence, the city of Fresno said it is cutting off Advance Peace and allocating nearly $1 million elsewhere.
The Fresno City Council agreed last December to spend $950,000 on the program using federal relief dollars. Advance Peace is administered through the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission.
Advance Peace’s goal is to reduce shootings by providing transformational opportunities to young men — typically gang members — involved in gun violence. It was founded by DeVone Boggan, a former neighborhood safety director in Richmond, California. Advance Peace has chapters in Sacramento, Stockton, and Oakland.
Threat Made Against City Councilmember
In April, several law enforcement agencies announced dozens of Fresno arrests in a statewide gang takedown operation known as Operation No Fly Zone. One of those arrested was Leonard Smith, who worked for Advance Peace in Fresno. He was charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
“Shortly thereafter, Chief (Paco) Balderrama, who had been a strong supporter of Advance Peace, informed me that the Fresno Police Department would no longer be able to work in partnership with Advance Peace, or share information with them due to several concerning issues coming to light during the investigation. These details extend beyond the arrest of an Advance Peace employee,” Fresno City Manager Georgeanne White said in a Wednesday statement.
White’s statement said Balderamma’s concerns included “threats made to at least one city council member, and the misuse of sensitive information provided to Advance Peace.”
White’s statement did not elaborate on the threat or identify the city councilmember.
After the announcement of Smith’s arrest, Fresno EOC announced an additional $300,000 in federal funding for Advance Peace secured by Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno.
“This will not detract from our important mission to reduce gun violence in the City of Fresno,” Fresno EOC spokeswoman Claudia Solis said at the time of Smith’s arrest.
Fresno EOC Responds
After the initial publication of this story, Fresno EOC defended the program, “disappointed” in the city pulling its funding.
“Advance Peace is a national program that has demonstrated results of reducing gun violence in multiple cities,” CEO Emilia Reyes said. “To date, we have found no data that shows any other violence intervention program funded by the City is more effective than Advance Peace Fresno.”
“Fresno EOC stands firmly behind Advance Peace Fresno and will continue to advocate, raise funds, and generate community support for this important program, which has made great strides in reducing gun violence and promoting healing in our most vulnerable neighborhoods,” Reyes said.
Money to Be Used for Another Program
The city said it will now use the money for gang prevention and intervention programs.
“On this public safety matter, I must trust the judgment of my Police Chief when he conveys serious concerns regarding Advance Peace and that the trust and partnership have been compromised. Not only do I trust Chief Balderrama, but I firmly stand by his decision,” White said.