BRADENTON, Fla. (WWSB) - A serious trespassing issue in Downtown Bradenton led police to launch a program designed to protect business owners.
It’s called the Bradenton Business Trespass Program. Participating business owners have signs posted strategically to warn people that if they don’t leave when they’re asked, they could be arrested.
Employees at Jake’s Automotive in Downtown Bradenton said it’s an issue they see that’s only getting worse. Just after lunch on Thursday, employees had to gently ask a homeless man to leave their property.
“Throughout the day, they’ll come through the parking lot," explained Matt Baer, shop technician for Jake’s Automotive. “Usually if a customer would be sitting out there reading, they may ask, ‘Can I get some money?’ And give a sob story.”
But at this point, it’s more than just a nuisance.
“They pee, they defecate behind our dumpster," Baer explained. "The homeless people decide to drag stuff out of our dumpsters, leave it all piled everywhere, set up camp on the sides of our shop. It’s gotten really out of hand around here.”
Here and several other locations in Downtown Bradenton, too.
“It’s common, especially in a downtown urban setting in a city," said Captain Brian Thiers with the Bradenton Police Department.
Bradenton Police launched the Business Trespass Program to help address this issue. More than 100 business owners have enrolled. In the month of August alone, police said 45 people were caught trespassing under the program.
“You have everything from someone who is mentally ill, homeless, could be intoxicated or sick, you don’t know," Captain Thiers explained. "So you come across someone laying across the door step of your property, it’s uneasy, it’s nerve-wracking.”
But Captain Brian Thiers said it’s not just the homeless.
“We’ll receive calls [from people saying], ‘Hey, I just drove by a business, saw somebody looking in the windows, can you guys check that out?’” Thiers explained. "And we also have our officers proactive on the ground.”
This program gives officers the rights to enter the property and issue a trespass warning without an owner having to be present. The new participants said it’s already making a difference.
“Since we’ve done that, we tell them we’re gonna call law enforcement right away," Baer said.
For more information about the program and how to enroll, click here.