It’s at the heart of Bakersfield, and the police department is working to make it a more popular part of the city. Today BPD announced a $300,000 federal grant that will fund three police officers assigned to patrol the downtown area on bicycles. The goal is to make the community feel safer and more comfortable.
This grant is a team effort between the police department and the City Council member Andrae Gonzales. “Our goal is to continue to revitalize downtown. There are a lot of exciting things happening within our downtown core. A lot of cafes, restaurants, and boutiques”, says City Council member Andrae Gonzales. Gonzales says it’s crucial that the city continues to support that to businesses can thrive and grow.
With that goal in mind, the police department is focusing on making downtown more desirable. Police Chief Lyle Martin says many community members complain about the large homeless community. While safety is the main complaint, others simply say they don’t want to deal with panhandlers. So three officers will patrol the downtown area on bicycles, which they hope will make them seem more approachable. Officers also hope their presence will make downtown have a safer feel. They also plan to be interactive and proactive with the homeless.
“We were very strategic about the officers we picked for this operation. They were originally part of our impact team that deals with homeless issues”, says Chief Martin, explaining that the three officers already have established relationships within the homeless community.
The chief says officers will help make the homeless aware of the resources available to them that can help them get off the streets. “Homelessness is not a crime. We’re not looking to make an arrest, arrest is always our last resort. We’re looking for long-term solutions and we’ve often times told folks if you have a gentleman panhandling for a quarter, does it really make sense to give him a citation for $100? That’s not contributing to what we’re trying to do, to find a long-term solution”, says Martin.
The Community Development Block Grant provides funding for this operation for two years.