With the opening game of the Kings season expected to bring thousands of fans into downtown Wednesday night, Sacramento police say they are seeing a spike in crime reports in the K Street corridor, blocks away from Golden 1 Center.
Sgt. Vance Chandler, spokesman for the Police Department, said officers have noticed an increase in disturbance, assault and drug activity calls in the last month, and some reports say homeless people are connected to these crimes – an allegation now under investigation.
“We are proactively looking into the data and have already taken measures to increase patrols in the area because obviously safety for everyone in the community is a priority, including when people are coming to the downtown area to enjoy entertainment such as Kings games,” Chandler said.
Last week, a woman who appeared to be homeless and half-naked walked into Rodney’s Cigar and Liquor Store, on the corner of J and 10th streets, and started stuffing cigars into her underwear, said store owner Ibrahim Abukhdair.
“She was trying to punch and kick as I’m trying to push her out of the store,” he said. “It’s gotten to a point where they will fight. I’ve gotten into boxing matches on the street. Theft is on a whole other level I’ve never seen before.”
“We’ve been vandalized three times in the last week,” he added. “Glass breaks, we fix it, and it breaks again.”
Abukhdair said he doesn’t call the police anymore because he thinks the response times are too slow.
The Downtown Sacramento Partnership could not be reached for comment.
Hazem Sharif, owner of Sharif Jewelers on the corner of K and 10th streets, said he has had run-ins with the homeless too.
He said on one occasion, a man who appeared to be homeless walked into his store and seemed to be very calm, but then started hitting his head against the window and threatened some of the staff. Another time, a different man came in to his store asking for money and when Sharif refused, the man threatened to kill him, Sharif said.
He said Capt. Norm Leong, who is in charge of Sacramento police in the downtown area, visited business owners a few weeks ago, asking what police can do to address the problems.
“I have no complaints about the Police Department,” Sharif said. “Their hands are tied.”
Police can take someone into custody only when there is probable cause that they committed a crime, or meet criteria such as being a danger to themselves, a danger to others or gravely disabled, Chandler said.
“At times depending on circumstances, we are limited,” he said. “If the person hasn’t committed crime, doesn’t meet criteria, or refused help, we are limited on what we are able to provide to them.”
Another business owner, Liezet Arnold, said she’s had at least two cameras stolen from her florist’s shop, Bloem Decor. She said the alley behind her business, which runs parallel to K Street and is less than 100 feet from restaurants and a major thoroughfare, is frequented by homeless people, some using illegal drugs. It is also used as a toilet so regularly that the business owners in the area have nicknamed it “s--- alley.”
One afternoon last week, trash, drug paraphernalia and human feces were in the alley, visible from the sidewalk traversed by dozens of pedestrians.
Officers also have seen a seeming increase in assaults in the daily crime reports but the data are still being examined, Chandler said.
Last Friday, shortly before 2 a.m., a man was punched in the face and went to the hospital for an injury to his jaw, Chandler said. The incident is still under investigation, but he said it appears the victim was “approached and punched for no reason.”
“Just tell people to come to K and 10th Streets and sit in any corner for 20 minutes and see what happens,” Sharif said.