BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — For months, business owners in downtown Bakersfield have complained about “aggressive” panhandlers and not enough security. The Bakersfield City Council unveiled a possible solution.

The Bakersfield city council Wednesday evening, unanimously approved giving $50,000 to the Downtown Business Association, a fraction of the money the city received from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARP). The funds will be used to beef up private security.

“This is a big win for downtown, a big win for our downtown businesses,” Melanie Farmer the president of the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association said. “This is security. This is extra security to help these businesses so they can lessen the crime and mental illness that comes through their businesses on a daily basis.”

City councilmembers all had stances on downtown’s vandalism and security issues.

“If we do have enhanced security such as this in a defined geographical area. That doesn’t eliminate the problem of crime in downtown,” City councilmember Ward 2 Andrae Gonzales said. “All it does is potentially displace it a few blocks away.”

“If we lose our downtown area that’s kind of the heartbeat of any city,” City councilmember Ward 6 Patty Gray said. “You can see what’s happened to cities all over this country that are losing their inner city.”

“It’s gotta be done if we’re ever going to start pushing back on crime in this area,” Vice Mayor and City councilmember Ward 3 Ken Weir said. “It needs to happen and it needs to happen now.

During the meeting, city manager Christian Clegg announced any recognized business association in Bakersfield can apply for these funds for private security. The ARP funds total $1 million.

Councilman Andrae Gonzales proposed allocating half of that to security and the other half to business development, which was approved.

The council also approved preliminary plans for gravity locks and steel lids for dumpsters in Bakersfield at the city’s expense, to deter vandalism and other crimes, with business owners responsible for maintaining them.

The next step is for the city to come up with the enforcement policy.