The state of downtown Bakersfield 2014

Published 02/13 2014 06:06PM

Updated 02/13 2014 06:36PM

BAKERSFIELD,CA -- How often do you shop or eat in downtown?  The Downtown Business Association held its annual State of the Downtown Bakersfield breakfast, sharing its vision of the future of the area and they want more of the community in it.

Members of the DBA say shopping local is what drives our local economy. So they want to make downtown more attractive for shoppers. But it starts with cleaning up the area and fixing problems like panhandling.

As Kevin Bartl takes on the role as the new board chairman of the Downtown Business Association he wants the Bakersfield community to fall in love with downtown like he has. 

On Thursday morning, the association celebrated its 60th anniversary. It was a time to acknowledge how far downtown has come. But also, a time to point out and fix problem areas like panhandling. A panhandling ordinance for stricter enforcement of existing law about begging, will go before the city council in early March in hopes to curb the problem. But Bakersfield Police Chief Greg Williamson says it will be hard to enforce.

"Misdemeanor laws in the state of California in ordinances we really can't take people to jail unless we actually witness a crime occurring in our presence," said BPD Police Chief Greg Williamson.  

BPD has two beat officers that patrol downtown from Mill Creek to F Street and from Truxtun down to the traffic circle. The department hopes its budget allows for more cameras to be installed in the area. Currently four cameras are up in Mill Creek, around the Rabobank Arena and the police department.

"We've struggled with bringing our staffing compliment up to where it should be and at the same time prison realignment happened our crime increased about 18 percent. We have a lot of work to do and we're not going to be able to do without community support," said Williamson.

Planning Center president Randy Jackson evaluated downtown and suggested adding more lights to discourage crime.

"The problem is you have lighting downtown but it's at about half a candle level and really to be safe and comfortable it needs to be four times that much," said Jackson.

Jackson says adding more residential buildings to the area makes for a better downtown culture and can bring in more money.

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