SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Homelessness continues to be a problem in Midtown and Downtown Sacramento despite continued attention and attempts to remedy the problem.
Some business owners along the Broadway corridor are speaking out, saying they’ve seen an uptick of vandalism and crime. They don’t feel enough is being done to remedy the persistent issue.
Dharmendra Ram is the owner of C&B Liquor Store on Broadway. He has a laundry list of vandalisms to his property that he says was done by homeless individuals.
“They s*** all over the place. Right here, right in front of my door,” explained Ram, pointing to various areas on the sidewalk in front of the store.
He said he arrives at work every morning around 6:00 a.m., even though he doesn’t open until 9:00 am.
“I have to come and do pressure washing. That takes about two or three hours just to clean up, make sure everything’s gone on the street and to the drainage,” Ram explained.
He said the homeless roam all over his property.
“They climb up my building... Took all the cameras. I put in a new set of cameras. They climb up again and sprayed that camera all black,” Ram said.
In fact, there are still visible footprints on the walls of his store, where people have climbed up onto his building.
“All my electrical panels back there, as you’ll see, all got bars and grills. Because they took my panel out, second time in three years. Who does that?” questioned Ram.
Shyreen Prasad is a manager at the Chevron gas station next door. She said things keep deteriorating.
“I think it has been worse over the year or so. I’ve seen a lot of homeless coming more often now, like across the street. You’ll see a lot of homeless just sitting there, just camping. And whenever they see us not in front, right here in this area, they just come in our stores, steal; they grab and leave,” she explained.
Prasad’s worried about her safety.
“It’s not safe for me. It’s not safe for me or for anybody to work here, to be here around all these kind of people,” she admitted.
Prasad said just one week ago, her coworker was beaten when he asked a man to leave the store. Surveillance video captured the violent incident.
The employee suffered bruising and lacerations to the face. Prasad said it’s not something that just happens occasionally.
“It’s every day, every single day. I would say every hour, you know,” he said.
Ram said the problem is not going away.
“It’s ongoing on Broadway. Ongoing. Ongoing,” he explained. “People have threatened me too. Call the police, call the police. Because they know the police won’t come. Call the police.”
Yet, Ram doesn’t believe it’s all on law enforcement.
“I’ll be honest with you. I’m not blaming the Sacramento PD or anything. They came here many times. I see the tired in their faces. It’s like someone put the cuffs on the back. They can’t do much,” he explained.
Still, Ram says when he does need the police, response is limited. He detailed such an incident.
“A man pushed all this TV and things, broke it on the floor. Would not leave, threatening me. So I’m on the corner there. I’m on camera too... I called the police; they came the next day,” he explained.
Ram also says he’s seen first-hand how the public has gotten smart to lax laws and punishment.
“There were some girls, right, and they were teenage girls. I’m assuming they were like five or six. They were using a calculator. You know what they told me and another employee here? We can take six, nine hundred something dollars. That’s when I figured what the hell was going on. We can each, five of us, take $950 dollars each of things from the store. We can do that,” he said.
It’s impossible to say why the girls chose that dollar amount, but Prop 47, which was passed in 2014, made stealing goods worth less than $950 a misdemeanor instead of a felony. ABC10 reached out to the Sacramento Police Department about this but did not receive a direct response. They did, however, say they would show up to a scene if a suspect remained, regardless whether the damage was minor.
Ram said some business owners have developed a work-around.
“They said, ‘Yeah, we just add more. You know, so the police will come. Let’s say it’s $800 dollars, we’ll say, I don’t know, $1,500 or $1,200.’ So now, we have to lie to get the police and have a police case,” he explained.
Prasad has had similar experiences with emboldened criminals.
“They’re not scared of anybody. Even if we call the police, they don’t want to show up over here. They call us back like in a couple of hours to check if they’re still here. And if not, they never show up.”
This was illustrated Sunday when a thief stole money out of the cash register as a Chevron employee was counting money at the end of their shift. On surveillance video, the thief can be seen lingering around the gas station, even paying for a drink with his own credit card, before lunging at the cash register, grabbing as much money as he could before getting away on a bike. He ended up stealing $480 dollars.
Prasad said dispatch told her to file an online report.
“I don’t know if he came with that intention or what, you know. But I called the cops. They said, ‘File an online report.’ I did file an online report."
ABC10 asked the Sacramento Police Department for an interview to respond to all of this. They sent an email saying, in the majority of vandalism calls, when there is property damage only, people are referred to an online reporting process. They say the reports are forwarded to the detective division and, if there’s specific things that can be investigated, detectives would follow up. They also say the department will continue to partner with the business community to ensure that their needs are being met.
Prasad says she hasn’t heard anything from police yet. This despite the fact that the thief used his own card to purchase a drink, and there is surveillance footage. Plus, Prasad says she even saved the drink cup used by the thief in case police wanted the fingerprints. But she said law enforcement didn’t want it.
“The lady told me, ‘Oh, they don’t need it because it’s an online report. They can’t do nothing. So they won’t attend to the fingerprint.’ I said, ‘Oh, okay.’”
Prasad sighed heavily as if defeated by the situation.
“At least police should show up on time. I hope something can be done about this, you know. Homelessness is increasing and increasing. I hope, I mean we are just risking our lives and that’s it,” Prasad said.