City Council directs staff to create safety program for Long Beach street vendors

After several high-profile attacks on street vendors, the Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday to craft a plan that members hope will better protect these sellers, potentially by equipping them with cashless payment technologies and helping them report crimes committed against them.

The item was proposed by Councilwoman Suely Saro who said these vendors have been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, with many not being eligible for government assistance due to their immigration status. She said the city should support these workers who are just trying to make an honest living.

“The violence street vendors have experienced recently is the result of a system that has not invested in them, their business and their families,” Saro said. “They’re a vital role in our community and economy and provide many of our low-income residents with quick and easy food access.”

Saro’s request asks for city staff to report back within two months on strategies that could be used to help increase safety for these vendors who are often alone and carrying large amounts of cash.

Saro proposed ideas such as equipping vendors with cashless payment apps, educating them about the legal process and their protections under the city’s resolution that bars Long Beach Police Department officers from coordinating with federal immigration officers, and potentially outfitting vendors with security cameras.

The City Council unanimously supported the idea.

Recent attacks against street vendors have made headlines and sparked outrage on social media. Those incidents range from harassment and vandalism of property to armed robbery.

“We value every member of our community and we can’t allow these things to happen without a response from our city,” said Councilman Rex Richardson.

Richardson said that the attacks have not only torn at the fabric of the community but have created tension in the communities they’ve occurred in.

The most recent incident was captured on cellphone footage in late May where two vendors had some of their products thrown on the ground by a woman and children in Central Long Beach. The woman was cited for vandalism but the vendors was also cited for not being properly licensed. The LBPD later said the ticket had been rescinded.

Support for vendors has been strong in the city with multiple supportive events held in the wake of attacks, with the nonprofit Local Hearts Foundation even raising funds to replace a cart that was stolen from a vendor last summer.

“They just want to go out there and make an honest living and with your guys’ support and protection, it would make things a lot easier for them,” said Tito Rodriguez, who serves as executive director of Local Hearts Foundation and is better known by his nickname, the Hood Santa.

Other advocates said it’s important for the city to engage with street vendors and immigrant-serving neighborhood groups in crafting a plan to ensure that the solutions are workable.

A report on potential actions is expected back before the City Council by early August.

Street vendor says officers ticketed him after he called for help; police say they’ll void citation

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Jason Ruiz covers City Hall and politics for the Long Beach Post.
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