Volunteers give pepper spray to Fresno's street vendors after series of attacks

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Volunteers with a community action group are literally putting protection in the hands of street vendors.

They hope pepper spray will deter the kind of crime that targets this vulnerable group.

Valeria Rodriguez-Pedroza and Alex Ramos-O'Casey are helping coordinate the program, and so far, have made contact with at least 50 street vendors, giving them pepper spray and teaching them how to use it to protect themselves.

"We haven't run into a vendor who hasn't had an incident. Every one had an assault, attempted robbery or a robbery (happen to them)," says Ramos-O'Casey.

"The (pepper spray) we're using has a UV dye. It provides an easier means of identification," adds Ramos-O'Casey.

Ramos-O'Casey says the idea came from a friend in Los Angeles who runs a similar program.

The protection packs come in light of the death of Lorenzo Perez, the Fresno street vendor shot and killed a little over a week ago in broad daylight.

RELATED: Multiple events held in Valley to honor murdered Fresno street vendor

"We want the community to know we're there for them, and people to know we're there and that this is not somebody you mess with," says Rodriguez-Pedroza.

Pepper spray is just one part of the protection. It takes people to make a difference.

The members of the Bay Area-based nonprofit organization ThaHoodSquad came to Fresno to patrol and protect street vendors as they worked along with neighborhoods.

Organizers are now hoping to offer full protection packages to vendors that include pepper spray, volunteers willing to patrol and keep watch, and even some form of cameras.

"Also Barrios Unidos will provide PPE, masks, hand sanitizers... we're looking into audiovisual devices where they can record," says Rodriguez-Pedroza.

If you want to help the volunteers, you can contact them by phone at 559-248-1995 or emailing them at Pepper4thepeople@gmail.com
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