A digital illustration with a blue background that features a street vendor standing next to a colorful umbrella and a fruit stand. In the foreground is the top of a barbed-wire wall.
Illustration by Shideh Ghandeharizadeh/Crosstown

Street Vendors Risk a Lot to Make a Living

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Note: This article first appeared on Crosstown and is shared with their permission in partnership with Los Angeleno. You can subscribe to Crosstown for crime, traffic and air quality news here.

Outside and exposed, they face robberies, assaults and bureaucracy.

Angelenos are increasingly returning to work and are adopting strict new safety protocols, including masks and social distancing. Street vendors are also resuming their jobs but are finding that, in some ways, the work is just as dangerous as it was before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a downtrodden economy, robberies, assaults, thefts and other crimes committed against street vendors are at nearly the same level as they were in 2019. According to Los Angeles Police Department data, after a sharp decrease in incidents early in the pandemic, there were 17 reported crimes against vendors in July, just two below the same month last year. In August there were 13 crimes committed against vendors; last August the figure was 14.

Those figures come on the heels of a steady, decade-long increase. From 2010-2019, reported crimes against street vendors in the city of Los Angeles rose nearly 337%, going from 38 to 166.

“I’m not surprised by the numbers. In fact, I suspect there are more incidents that go unreported,” said Doug Smith, an attorney for Public Counsel, which provides legal support to the Los Angeles Street Vendor Campaign. “In this work, we’ve seen this risk of violence and attacks against the vendor community.”

Dangerous Line of Work

The year began on a dangerous bent for vendors, as 16 crimes were reported in January, double the figure in 2019. Year-over-year tallies were still high in February, but then the situation changed as the city adopted safety measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. A moratorium on street vending passed by city leaders on March 17 helped reduce the number of criminal incidents to just four in April.

Read more on Crosstown.

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