Fresno inspectors to crack down on illegal street vendors

FRESNO, Calif.

Two Action News viewers contacted us complaining that illegal street vendors can easily beat the system because they know inspectors only work until 5 p.m.

We contacted the city on their behalf. And now we've learned inspectors will be changing their tactics to catch hustlers in the act.

These mobile restaurants offer cheap food to the buyer and low overhead costs for the vendor. But some concerned Fresno residents say many are operating without a permit.

"There are no restrictions. There's no inspections. There's nobody looking over your shoulder," business owner Melody Harcrow said.

Melody Harcrow owns a produce store in Southeast Fresno.

She describes a frustrating phone conversation with a code enforcement inspector earlier this week asking to fix the problem.

"She basically told me after five o'clock that it's not anything that they can enforce. A lot of these vendors that are doing it know that if they set up shop it has to be 5:01 and they're doing it," added Harcrow. "About 99 percent of it is not legal."

Bruce Hartman is the city's Community Revitalization Manager and says the days of code enforcement inspectors working only 8 to 5 Monday through Friday are over.

"It's going to be sporadic back and forth but it'll be complete coverage during weeknights, weekends. Saturdays. Sundays. Mornings. Evenings. And things will be bouncing things back and forth on our side because they're doing the exact same thing," Hartman said.

Patrick Lee hopes Hartman's words aren't just lip service.

His family has owned restaurants in the Valley and he's upset about the growing problem that's taking place on street corners around his neighborhood and throughout the city.

"They aren't paying taxes. They're not having the health department check him out or anything. And they're taking money out of the state and county and the city's pocket," Lee said.

When we arrived Lee had already gotten into an argument with one of the vendors.

This couple had a sign with cherries for sale and watermelons placed in the bed of their pick up. They quickly left after we showed up.

Hartman says it could take a couple weeks before the new teams of inspectors are out on the streets. Those who are cited could be fined up to $800.

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