FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The Blackstone Merchant’s Association held a meeting Wednesday with city officials, to express their concerns about rampant crime fueled by the unhoused population.

The president of the merchant’s association told us Wednesday, prior to the meeting, that the homeless population in the area has had a devastating impact.

He stated the various incidents that have occurred, from members being driven away, to being driven out of business.

To the homeless starting fires, break-ins to businesses, and even violent crime.

It is an issue, that members of the association have had to take on themselves, as collectively they hired a local security company to help patrol over 200 businesses on Blackstone Avenue, from Divisadero Street to Gettysburg Avenue.

AJ Rassamni, President of Blackstone Merchant’s Association, said it has made a real difference.

“This is what we’re doing as an association, a solution we came up with, as an association to try to clean the area. Does it clean 100%? No. But we have, for example, a hotel in our area. They used to have 450 calls. It basically went down to almost zero,” said Rassamni.

Rassamni told us that businesses, like those in the Nursery Shopping Center on Blackstone and Griffith, now leave their businesses unlocked for customers, instead of when they used to lock their doors during the day.

But he said, the only way to really fix this problem, is to find a permanent place for the homeless to go.

“We’re moving the problem around. So give us an area where we can send them to,” Rassamni said. “We’re the ones that pay taxes. We’re the ones that hire people. We need a solution.”

But Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer stated that would only move the problem from one location to another.

“The real solution, long-term solution, is making sure that we have sufficient housing for the homeless that they can go to from the emergency shelters,” said Mayor Dyer.

The Merchant’s Association also asked for a crackdown on crime, after $2.5 million in catalytic converters were stolen from 42 association dealerships.

Chief Paco Balderrama, also in attendance, said the police force is doing all it can with current staff and budget, and he hopes to add dozens more with city council approval.