Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama speaks at a press conference Wednesday announcing funding for neighborhood watch programs in Fresno. Photo by Ben Hensley
Written by Ben Hensley
The Fresno Police Neighborhood Watch (FPNW) was introduced Wednesday by Fresno City Council President Nelson Esparza, Mayor Jerry Dyer, Police Chief Paco Balderrama and FPNW President Mary Haskin in a press conference at Fresno City Hall.
The announcement comes before the official allocation of $300,000 for the expansion of neighborhood watch programs in Fresno. The budgeted money will allow for education programs, updated signage and materials, and outreach programs with a goal of making Fresno neighborhoods safer.
“At tomorrow’s city council meeting, I will be asking my colleagues to approve an allocation of $300,000 to Fresno Police and neighborhood watch,” Esparza said.
The expansion came from this summer’s budget meetings, during which the approval of funds saw unanimous approval from the city council.
In partnership with the City of Fresno, the FPNW will conduct 10 educational meetings per month, as well as hosting four crime prevention workshops monthly.
The organization will also publish a monthly e-newsletter aiming to improve communication between police and the organization with a goal of monitoring for urgent safety concerns.
The organization also aims to add 100 new active groups by June 2023.
Haskin was motivated to reinitiate the program following crimes in her neighborhood in District 7, and upon discovering that her area had only one active neighborhood watch program — but on a different street. She took it upon herself to officially reinitiate the program.
The City of Fresno’s neighborhood watch program had existed since before the national neighborhood watch initiative passed in 1972.
“Neighborhood watch in Fresno was founded by trailblazers Roz and Fred Clark in 1970,” Haskin said. “They started a grassroots organization and had remarkable accomplishments, but as with many things, time and age take its toll.”
Haskin hopes that the re-initialization of the neighborhood watch program will carry on the Clark’s legacy. With new leadership setting a new foundation, and the unanimous funding of the program, Haskin believes that a clear message has been sent.
“We all deserve to live and work in a safe place,” she said.
The FPNW program will work closely with the Fresno Police Department, and has reached out to the Fresno County Sheriff’s office as well, with the hopes of including pockets of Fresno County neighborhoods within the Fresno city limits into the program as well.
“They are going to reach out to their particular groups, and I will be meeting with them to collaborate,” Haskin said. “Even though it’s just their jurisdiction, we’re all in Fresno. There are so many county islands smack dab in the middle of the city, it makes sense to educate those people as well.”
Haskin added that the website, makefresnosafer.org, can assist any community that may be interested in exploring ways to improve public safety.
“When people are not involved, great things like this cannot happen,” said Balderrama. “I want to thank our mayor and our council president because I didn’t ask for this money — this was something that they took the initiative to put in the budget so we can increase communication, increase community involvement, increase public trust, and together we can make Fresno the safest large city in California.”
A final decision regarding the funding of the program will be made during the city council meeting on Thursday, Sept. 1.
“A safer community is a top priority for my administration and the city council — and investments like this bring us closer to the city we strive to be,” Dyer said, in a press release provided to the media. “I’m excited to see this program grow, expand, and help even more neighborhoods in Fresno.”