Fresno Provides Cameras to Street Vendors in First-of-Kind Program – GV Wire

A year after the murder of Fresno street vendor Lorenzo Perez, the city is taking action to prevent future criminal acts.

In a $20,000 pilot program called the first of its kind, 20 cameras will be installed on street vendor carts.

“There is no other city in the state of California which does something close. I consider it the first in the country,” said city councilor Luis Chavez.

The idea came from the sellers themselves, who organized themselves last year after Perez’s death.

The camera program”gives (street vendors) another layer of security while they work 12-hour days in our community,” Fresno Councilman Miguel Arias said during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Fresno Community Center. Mosqueda.

“If you are planning to attack, rob our mobile food vendors, expect to be caught on camera. Expect to be arrested, to be held accountable because the days when our mobile food vendors were just vulnerable is no longer there,” Arias said.

The recordings will be kept on a cloud system, accessible by the individual suppliers.

The aim is not only to record possible crimes, but also to deter them. Arias told the story of a salesperson who noticed that students behaved much better when buying items from his shopping cart.

The money will be used for cameras, software and storage space for videos. Ironworkers Local 155 helped attach the cameras to the carts.

Vendors get organized

After Perez’s death, the vendors organized an official trade group to discuss safety and establish a better relationship with the city.

Police arrested a man in Perez’s murder in March 2021. His trial is ongoing.

Lopez’s murder was the second of a food vendor in recent years. There were several other incidents of thefts and other crimes.

As a condition of receiving a city-provided camera, vendors must follow local business and safety standards.

Chavez said there’s an added benefit of the city working with food vendors so they can “come out of the shadows.”

“In fact, we now put our money where our mouth is. And help them with support services,” Chavez said.

Another goal is to organize a community kitchen so that vendors can prepare healthy food. The city has pledged $5 million.

“Mobile vendors, because they are mobile, have the potential to play a very important role in improving access to healthy food. We want to encourage them,” said Veva Islas, director of the advocacy group Cultiva la Salud, and also administrator of Fresno Unified.

Islas’ goals are more ambitious. Vendors’ wares on display included takis, pork rinds, and the ever-popular elote.

Municipal expenditure justified

Funds for the pilot program come from the operating budgets of the Arias and Chavez councils.

Asked why the city covers the costs of the cameras, Arias said it sounds like other city grants, especially during the pandemic.

“Some of them were parklets that the city funded for outdoor dining. Others have been relieved by helping them pay their mortgage, their rent. We have forgiven some people who owe unpaid rent,” Arias said. “A thousand dollars for a mobile food vendor to have security and make sure they don’t get robbed is a very small investment.”

Fresno city councilors Miguel Arias (left) and Luis Chavez ride around in a food vendor cart equipped with a security camera. (GV Wire/David Taub)

Ryan H. Bowman