WPD increases outreach for unpermitted street vendors

Watsonville Police Department service specialists check a street vendor's permit in 2008. WPD's recent efforts to reach out to the city’s unpermitted street vendors caused a stir among many Watsonville residents. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian File Photo

Compliance checks, not enforcement, officials say

WATSONVILLE — Since Watsonville Police Department announced its efforts to reach out to the city’s unpermitted street vendors, five of them have come in to apply for their necessary paperwork.

That’s according to WPD spokeswoman Michelle Pulido, who made the announcement June 4 on the department’s Facebook page.

According to Pulido, the increased outreach efforts stem from complaints by community members concerned about street vendors operating illegally within the city.

“So, we’re wanting to change that,” Pulido stated. “Our officers will be out conducting more compliance checks and educating street vendors about city regulations and the permits they’re required to have.”

That announcement sparked a backlash of comments about the Facebook post from people concerned about heavy-handed police response against people simply trying to make a living.

“This is the least of our concerns,” said Rachel Maxwell. “Let’s focus on the massive theft issues, drug/mental health/homelessness.”

But Pulido said the officers are merely informing vendors of their requirements, and issuing warnings when they are found out of compliance.

“We are in no way trying to target them,” she said. “We want to work with them to help them establish a legitimate business in the city.”

The efforts are also aimed at leveling the playing field for vendors who are in compliance, she said.

According to Pulido, all vendors must have a permit from the Watsonville Police Department, which costs $256, and a business license from the City of Watsonville, which runs $144.

“We agree it is costly, and we are trying to work with the city to see if we can reduce that rate,” Pulido said. “We want to empower them and have them become small business owners.”

WPD also performs a background check on applicants to make sure they haven’t been convicted of any major crimes.

They also must get a health permit from the Santa Cruz County Health Department, which cost $198 to sell prepackaged food and $357 for a food truck, county spokesman Jason Hoppin said.

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For information, visit bit.ly/2ZzjHlF or call 768-3386.

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