BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — With the holiday shopping season about to begin, business owners and city officials are concerned about “aggressive” homeless people sleeping in public spaces in Downtown Bakersfield.
There’s a county anti-camping ordinance that’s supposed to stop people from sleeping on the streets and it’s not alone. Bakersfield has a municipal code that calls it unlawful for anyone to sleep in public areas. However, the code and ordinance have to be enforced and even when it is, law enforcement can only do so much.
Even with the county anti-camping ordinance and Bakersfield municipal code, aggressive homeless people continue to sleep in public areas and bother local businesses.
“A lot of them have mental issues and there’s nowhere for them to go,” Jose Jimenez the general manager at Jerry’s Pizza and Pub said. “It’s sad to say they kind of smell and that’s not something you want to be around when you’re eating food.”
The Bakersfield Downtown Business Association made its own solution to these issues. They’re having their block to block luncheon this Thursday and tickets are still available.
“The presence is what we need,” Melanie Farmer the president of the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association said. “We need people downtown. It’s not just arresting or having them move along but it’s also giving them assistance.”
O&A Security is contracted to work with the association and Downtown businesses. It provides walking-patrols from Wall Street Alley to 20th Street, and Chester Avenue to H Street.
“Right now one of the main problems going on are all the homeless going around and causing damage to the businesses,” JW Owens the owner of O&A Security said.
The Bakersfield City Council is also taking action by increasing the number of officers in the ‘Quality of Life’ division in the Bakersfield Police Department. It’s also creating a low-level offender court and a diversion program for those with mental disabilities and drug addictions.
“It’s not just about pushing them out of the area but it’s about getting them the help that they need,” Farmer said.
We’ll have an update Thursday following the block to block luncheon where Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Terry will give crime statistics over the past year and a look at security moving forward.