Block to block: Business owners call for ramped up security in downtown Bakersfield

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — It’s no secret some shopkeepers in downtown Bakersfield are wary of crime, as many report an uptick in issues like vandalism since the start of the pandemic. Some shopkeepers say it’s time to crack down on crimes against businesses in downtown Bakersfield by resurrecting the Block to Block program. Organizers want the city to provide private security to protect businesses, as Bakersfield Police are stretched thin.

“We need a little additional private security at the moment,” said Dixie Brewer, Chief Block Captain for the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association. “We want our BPD to handle the bigger problems, not coming down to remove, you know, a homeless person from my sidewalk who may be having a drug problem.”

Brewer says public officials should hire security guards with funds from the city’s Measure N sales tax. The heads of the Block to Block program say they also want tougher laws.

“Right now we cannot punish petty theft,” said Cassie Bittle, a Block Captain for the Bakersfield Downtown Business Association. “We cannot stop people from stealing your catalytic converters, we cannot stop people from jumping over your fence because those are misdemeanors.”

The push comes after a string of vandalism in the downtown area that some shopkeepers blame on the local homeless population, plus those with drug addictions or mental health issues.

“We recognize this is a trifecta problem,” said Bittle. “We have a housing crisis, we have a crime crisis, and we have a mental health crisis. Now we need to look into the crime aspect of it.”

Event organizers plan to meet the mayor and the city manager to review the plan on June 16th.

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