Homeless heckle downtown businesses, owner call for action

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FRESNO, California (KGPE) — Business owners in downtown Fresno say the homeless are causing problems for employees and customers.

Several owners said the homeless will demand free food or cause ruckus inside of businesses, break windows, or steal goods.

Almost every business on Fulton Street closes each day around 4:45 p.m. with owners locking up their gates and heading home, but restaurant Charapan stays open until 6 p.m. on weekdays and even later on weekends.

“It is a risk for us being open that late,” said Christopher Ventura whose family owns the restaurant.

Ventura said often homeless come inside and demand free food or even steal merchandise and take off.

“It gets difficult to remain in a safe environment,” he said.

Just down the street at the Fulton Mini Mart, the owner took a video of a man who blocks the entrance to the store so customers can’t get in. The owner said the man has disrupted business at least five times and has allegedly made threats.

At a dress store, employees worry for their safety with alleged thieves taking all the dresses they can get their hands on.

Downtown Partnership President Jimmy Cerracchio said most of the homeless don’t cause issues, but he said the ones who do aren’t staying locked up for long because of $0 bail.

“Breaking windows, starting fires, they will be arrested and then let out and get right back to it,” said Cerracchio.

Mayor Jerry Dyer encouraged business owners to report any issues to police and promised that once the city is finished clearing the highways, the focus will shift to city streets including downtown.

“We want to make sure we have an environment downtown where people feel safe,” said Dyer.

The Downtown Partnership has one security vehicle in the area, but owners hope there will also be a heavier police presence in the future especially at night.

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