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Fresno – the Drunkest City and in Denial?

January 19th, 2011

01.19.2011

Photo: CHP DUI Checkpoint (Madera, CA)

Fresno – the Drunkest City and in Denial?

original article written by NetAdvisor

On February 4, 2010 the fresnobeehive.com published an article titled, So Fresno’s the drunkest city — who cares?” The article was in apparent response to a report published by Men’s Health who in 2010 ranked Fresno as the “Drunkest City” in the USA.

The news hit headlines with major media including ABC, CBS, NBC, and USA Today, picking up the story. In a TV interview with CBS and Fresno City Councilman Blong Xiong stated that “the statistics used in the report are flawed.”

The Men’s Health report stated,

“Fresno was near the top in every measure of dangerous drinking, including the body count caused by booze-fueled car crashes (Fatality Analysis Reporting System), the number of arrests made for driving under the influence (FBI), the number of people who admit to binge drinking in the last month (CDC), and the severity of DUI penalties (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety).”

Men’s Health

The report did not single out Fresno, CA, but also named 99 other cites (Source: USA Today). In 2007, the fresnobeehive.com published an article that apparently acknowledged that at that time, Fresno was ranked #93 on America’s “Drunken City” list.

After reading fresnobeehive.com‘s commentary in February 2010, we decided to investigate. Mike Oz who apparently wrote the article at fresnobeehive.com stated that “Sometimes I think these researchers are drunk.” Mr. Oz further attempted to argue apparent controversy over Men’s Health stating that in 2005, the magazine ranked Fresno as the “14th fittest city” and then ranked the city #89 regarding eating habits. Regardless of diet, fit people can become intoxicated too.

Photo of Mr. Mike Oz for FresnoBeehive.com - A blog site for The Fresno Bee. Public Profile on MySpace.com

Mr. Oz also argued that the study did not cite how much alcohol purchased in Fresno and whether that should be a factor. One might argue that if Mr. Oz is suggesting that a number of people in Fresno, CA purchase a larger share of alcohol as compared to other cities, that might help explain why Fresno law-enforcement has sought try and reduce the increased deaths from drunk driving since 2006 (Source: USA Today).

After doing some research as to why Fresno seems to get a lot of bad press. We submitted 11 key findings from news stories plus a random sample of top stories in Fresno, CA published on or around 02.05.2010. We sent this summary on or about February 5-7th, 2010 to the fresnobeehive.com via comment section. The result: Our summary of submitted findings to the fresnobeehive.com were never published. So, after sitting on this and additional data since, we decided to publish them here.

We stated to the Fresnobeehive that, “one can’t deal with an alcohol problem until they can admit they have a problem.” We did not provide a reference citation to this particular statement at the time of our submitted comments, but according to AA.org, admission is the first step to recovery (Source: AA.org PDF, P59, point 1).

The fresnobeehive.com article claims that Fresno is “a model for the rest of the country.”

We argued that, having a high level of drunk check points does not mean one is a “model for society,” it means that there is a NEED for police to get drunks off the road.

Here is the rest of our submitted comments that also did not get published. We provided just headline and supporting links in our original submission. For this report, we have elaborated on the stories found to discuss the issues in greater detail.

Other Reasons Why Fresno Gets a Bad Reputation

1. Poor air quality.
Poor air quality affects student’s health.

“Students at California State University, Fresno battle allergies due to pollution and increased airborne dust from high winds, according to University Health and Psychological Services Nurse Practitioner, Kay Busby.”

— Source: California State University, Fresno, 11-09-2009

The American Lung Association gave Fresno County, CA air quality three out of three failing grades in 2010 related to poor air-quality as reported by the Fresno County’s own local non-profit organization 1000friendsoffresno.org

2. High Crime Rate & Calls to Police.

Of the 486,000 people who live in Fresno, there were 432,320 calls to police. That’s 1,184 calls to police every day. There were also 103,412 police reports taken in 2009.

— Source: 2009 FBI Crime Index Report (Fresno.gov) (PDF, page 3)

The Fresno Bee reported that in 2009, there was a slight increase in murders in Fresno to 42, up from 40 in 2008. This number is also reflected in the above 2009 FBI Crime Index Report. Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer apparently stated to the Fresno Bee that, “Street robberies were the primary reason for the rise in violent crimes in 2009.”

3. Fresno Ranks as “One of the Worst Cities to do Business.”
According to a report by KMPH-Fox News seems to suggest that bureaucratic red tape is making more difficult for business to operate in Fresno. The report cites that Fresno is ranked second to last as “100 out of 101 cities for doing business.” However according to the same article a new sports bar is booming.

4. Bad Hair Day?
According to TotalBeauty.com – yes we had to include this one because of the humor factor. Fresno ranked #7 in California for cities with the worst conditions for hair. TotalBeauty.com called Fresno, “a nightmare for your hair.” Corpus Christi, Texas came in first, but don’t mess with Texas.

5. “BBB list: 12 Worst-rated Valley Businesses” (6 of 10 located in Fresno).
The Better Business Bureau in Central California published, the “Dirty Dozen” which includes “the worst rated businesses in the area it serves for 2009.” Six of the top 10 (60%) poorest grades went to establishments based in Fresno, CA (Source: thebusinessjournal.com).

6. “10 Worst Real-estate Markets for 2009” – Fresno: Ranked #7 in USA.
We all know that the real estate market has taken a big toll especially during 2007-2009. CNN ranked Fresno at the 7th worst real-estate market for 2009; Los Angeles, came in at #1.

7. Fresno’s High Poverty Rate.
In 2005, the Washington Post cited a Brookings Institution report that the poverty level in Fresno was greater than pre-Hurricane Katrina where New Orleans, LA was ranked number two. Based on year 2000 Census data, the report found that, “43.5 percent of Fresno’s poor live in extremely poor neighborhoods (where more than 40 percent of the residents live below the federal poverty line — $17,600 a year for a family of four)” (Source: Washington Post).

8. The Worst Cities for Auto Theft.
According to BankRate.com, the worst cities in the USA for auto theft ranked Fresno #2 (2002), #6 (2003), and #9 (2004). In May 2010, USA Today cited a report by the National Crime Information Center where Fresno ranked #5 as the city that had the most stolen vehicles in the entire USA. California held 6 of the top 10 spots for auto theft in the USA.

9. “The Best & Worst Drivers” – Fresno Ranked #72 Grade D+ (the higher the number the worst the score).
According to WIFR TV News in Rockford, IL cited an article that listed the 100 “best and worst motorist” in the USA.

Fresno also managed to cruise by on this list ranking at #72 (where #100 ranked as the worst city (Columbia, SC), and #1 (Des Moines, IA) as the best city for overall driver safety ratings. The study looked at “the total number of fatal accidents and fatal crashes caused by speeding.” The study reportedly conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Allstate Insurance and the Governors Highway Safety Association (Source: WIFR-TV News.

10. Crime is so bad in Fresno, they have to try a mass murder case in Los Angeles?
A high-profile Fresno murder and sex crimes case was tried in Los Angeles apparently due to potential jury bias from the local Fresno community (Source: Los Angeles Times). Marcus Wesson was found convicted of nine counts of first-degree murder and 14 sex crimes, including the rape and molestation of his underage daughters. According to the Times, “The mayor called the case Fresno’s 9/11. Police called it Fresno’s worst mass murder. National media carried headlines: “House of Horrors” and “Suffer the Little Children: Murder in Fresno.”

Now this is not to say that Fresno is the murder capital of the world, just that stories like these along with a laundry list of other community issues does not exactly bring a positive spin to the area.

11. “America’s Smartest Cities – From First to Worst” Fresno Ranked (Last): #55 out of 55.

As if all the good news was out on Fresno The Daily Beast published rankings of the top 55 “smartest cities” in the USA. Fresno came in – you guessed it – dead last. According to the article:

“The race to the bottom wasn’t even close. The largest city in California’s San Joaquin breadbasket, Fresno, had deficiencies across the board. College education (less than 20 percent of the local population have four-year degrees), graduate studies, academic institutions (not much besides Fresno State), book purchases, voter engagement—it ranked in the worst 5 percent in almost all of our categories. Problems with gangs and crystal meth tend to deter the best and brightest.”

— Source: The Daily Beast

12. Pre-Mature Death?
According to a July 21, 2008 article called “Down and Out in Fresno” published by National Public Radio (NPR.org) stated in part that,

“…people in Fresno die on average four-and-a-half years earlier than folks at the top end of the (American Human Development) index.”

—- Source: NPR.org

The article further cites farming including the use of pesticides, and poor air quality as why Fresno County ranked “dead last” on the American Human Development Index.

One of the NPR.org user comments on the aforementioned article stated on 07-21-2008:

“I am a third generation Fresnan, and I have read all of the press latley about the poverty and bad living conditions, and its all true. Fresno and the central valley is about the worst place to live that I’ve ever seen.”

NPR.org user comment, 07-21-2008

Finally, we then looked at current media reports at the time of the “Drunken City” article was published. We went directly to a major media outlet, ABC News in Fresno and pulled these top stories:

  1. “Suspected Drunk Driver Killed Pedestrian on Blackstone” (Source: ABC News, Fresno 02.05.2010) (video)
  2. “Huge S.W.A.T. Operation in Mendota” (Source: ABC News, Fresno 02.05.2010) (video)
  3. “Motel Drive Prostitutes Change Their Strategy” (Source: ABC News, Fresno 02.05.2010) (video)
  4. “Teen Arrested in Tulare for Murder at Fresno Denny’s” (Source: ABC News, Fresno 02.04.2010) (video)
  5. “Sureño Gang Member Arrested in Fatal Fresno Shooting” (Source: ABC News, Fresno 02.04.2010) (video)

In short, whether or not Fresno sees itself as the “Drunkest City;” and whether or not the Fresnobeehive “cares,” clearly there are quite a number of issues the community might want to start caring about to try and get off these national lists.
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Additional links for further reading:
AA.org
Al-anon.org
California Highway Patrol
M.A.D.D.
stopimpaireddriving.org/Fresno

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