Retail Theft Crackdown Begins as Fresno Adds 24 Cops Via Grant - GV Wire - Explore. Explain. Expose
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Retail Theft Crackdown Begins as Fresno Adds 24 Cops Via Grant

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The Fresno Police Department is adding 24 new full-time officers to help combat retail theft thanks to a $23.6 million state grant. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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Fresno is adding 24 new full-time police officers to help combat retail theft, thanks to a $23.6 million state grant — the largest awarded.

The Fresno City Council unanimously approved the funding, 7-0, at Thursday’s meeting. The grant will also hire a sergeant and two service technicians, as well as equipment such as license plate readers and cameras.

An increase in violent crimes over the last few years had lowered the department’s priority for combatting organized retail theft and stolen cars, Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama explained.

“This is going to really benefit our community because we focus on violent crime, and that’s the highest priority, obviously. But we also have to take care of our business community,” Balderrama told the council.

The three-year grant, from the Board of State and Community Corrections, will create the Fresno Metropolitan Area Organized Retail Task Force, in conjunction with Clovis PD, Fresno County Probation, and the Fresno County DA’s office. The goal is to reduce retail and auto thefts by 15% each.

“Once you start holding people accountable, I believe it’s really going to help us meet our goal,” Balderrama said.

Commercial burglaries were up 4.5% and larceny was up 34.4% from 2021 to 2022, according to Fresno PD data.

Money for Cameras

The grant will come with money for cameras. Balderrama said they would use them in similar places as the ShotSpotter system for detecting gunshots. The city will focus on retail corridors such as Blackstone Avenue, the Tower District, major malls, and Belmont Avenue.

It will also allow the police department to “tap into” store cameras, and more easily share information.

Balderrama said the problem in Fresno is not as bad as the Bay Area or southern California, and he wants to keep it that way.

“We’re going after organized retail theft and our detectives are going to identify the crews that are doing this, that are storming certain businesses and walking out with sometimes tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise,” Balderrama said.

Balderrama said even though it’s only three years of funding, the new officers will remain if the money is not renewed. They would fill vacant positions, he told the city council.

Retail Organizations Support

The California Retail Association helped lobby for the state grant. President/CEO Rachel Michelin said she is “thrilled” for Fresno’s award. She said retail theft in the Central Valley is growing.

“Particularly, we’re seeing it a lot with cargo thefts and with our railroads and those types of things. So it is a growing problem,” Michelin said. “A lot of this is about deterring people from doing the behavior in the first place. We’d rather them know that there will be a consequence for their behavior. And by seeing more law enforcement present, I think that does deter them from committing the crime in the first place.”

Small and ethnically-owned businesses feel the brunt of retail theft, said John Kabateck, California State Director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He said the grant “represents a positive step forward.”

Kabateck says more needs to be done, including repairing “the broken machine known as Prop 47.”

“Criminals will continue to thumb their nose at the law and prey on our uncertain, frightened Main Street businesses. That’s why it’s nice to see the California Legislature finally taking this issue seriously, and I give some credit to new Speaker Robert Rivas for finally tackling something previous Capitol leaders seemingly wanted nothing to do with. Unless and until the state addresses this problem comprehensively, we will continually be confronted with the challenges posed by retail crime,” Kabateck said.

Fresno was one of 38 recipients of the $242 million total in grant funding. Fresno, by far, received the largest award, in part because it is collaborating with other local agencies.

Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email