FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – With several incidents at Fresno’s Fashion Fair mall over the past year, could gang members be banned from the mall?
Mayor Jerry Dyer and Police Chief Paco Balderrama acknowledged the fear from the community about safety concerns at Fashion Fair Mall after a stabbing left two teenagers injured this last Saturday.
The chief and mayor are set to meet with mall representatives on Thursday to talk about possible policy changes including banning certain gang members.
“The perception of fear is what we are trying to reduce,” said Balderrama. “The number of contracts is one thing that we want to do but we also want to work on the policies. I happen to believe that if you are a known gang member and you are there to cause problems you shouldn’t be let into the mall.”
On Saturday, police said over a dozen people got into a fight inside of the mall and a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old were sent to the hospital.
One of the teenagers was stabbed in the armpit the other had a head injury from being hit on the head with an object.
Now, the chief and mayor are promising security changes.
“No person regardless of where they are shopping should have to shop in fear,” said Dyer.
Balderrama said the stabbing suspect is 27-year-old Prophet Hillard. He is behind bars. Police said Hillard is a known gang member with an extensive criminal history including assault on a police officer, assault with a deadly weapon, domestic violence, and gun possession charges.
“It is not the law-abiding citizens that are causing problems,” said Balderrama. “It is the gang members.”
Since January 2021, there have been several incidents that have sent shoppers and employees running for safety.
In January 2021 a 17-year-old was arrested for a shooting at the mall.
Then in April, there was a smash-and-grab and shooting in the same week at the mall.
In August, Fresno police officers shot an auto-theft suspect outside of Forever 21.
“There is a lot of work we need to do to make sure that when people go to Fashion Fair Mall that they feel safe,” said Dyer. “I promise you that is what is going to occur.”
Dyer, Balderrama, and mall representative will discuss potential security changes, including allowing the department to have access to cameras, an extra police officer contracted at the mall, and gang members potentially not being allowed inside.
Dyer said in the past, there have been discussions about not allowing gang members into the Fashion Fair Mall, but said there is a lot to iron out when making a decision to exclude populations, including several factors.
“Number one, how do you know they are a gang member,” said Dyer. “Number two, are tattoos and clothing going to be taken into account?”
Dyer said ultimately it would be up to Fashion Fair to decide on gang members and whether or not they would be excluded.
“The liability falls with Fashion Fair they would be the ones denying entrance,” said Dyer. “We are not going to do anything to subject them to any unnecessary liability but at the same time there is a balance at making sure that the right people are at Fashion Fair and they are there for the right reason and not to cause problems for the good people.”
Balderrama says despite Fashion Fair being in the headlines for incidents in the last year, crime is down in the city.
“Homicides are down 47%, shootings are down 30% compared to the same time last year, now last year was not a good year but the fact of the matter stands we are doing the right things,” said Balderrama.