City taking a harder stance on camping in public parks, too

The City of Taft is taking more steps to curb camping and loitering by transients in public spaces, but it's seeking more help from the public - especially business owners - to deal with those issues on private property.

Police are strictly enforcing ordinances and more signage will be added at public areas like Rails to Trails, Fifth Street Plaza, Veterans Park.

"There's an ordinance that those facilities are closed from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. and the city is going to put up more signs," City Manager Craig Jones said. "Police have been enforcing those ordinances and citing people."

That is effective up to a point.

It sometimes means transients just move to another area, often on private property.

As one officer said, "We're just kicking the can down the road."

The help deal with the problem, Jones said, the city is asking business owners to take responsibility to keep transients from loitering or panhandling on their property.

There is little law enforcement can do unless they get cooperation from the businesses.

That means posting signs with the correct wording, and having someone from the business willing to be a victim and talk to officers when they respond.

Otherwise,"All the police can do is ask (the transients) to leave the area voluntarily," Jones said, and that may not be effective for very long.

"The police department can't use their resources for the businesses that aren't willing to put up the proper signage and be a victim," Jones said.

Signs are available, at a small cost, through city offices. Call 763-1222 for more information.