Business owners near an alley east of downtown Bakersfield have been given permission by the city to close off the alley after a recent uptick in crime. 

On Wednesday, the City Council voted to allow business owners to secure the entrances to the alley with lockable gates. The 20-foot alley, running east to west, is bounded by Sumner, Sonora, East 21st and Sacramento Streets.

Public Works Director Nick Fidler said the alley would only be accessible to public utilities, for work on sewer or electrical issues.

"My understanding is there was vandalism and theft, and an increased crime spike within the area," Fidler said Thursday. 

And prostitution. Gary Ponce, manager of Bakersfield Air Conditioning and Supply Company on Sumner, said the alley receives a lot of traffic on weeknights and on the weekends. 

"There's areas in the alley where prostitutes will just bring the cars (of customers) down there," he said. 

He's also noticed multiple instances of graffiti and on Thursday morning trash was strewn along the alley. 

City documents show Tyack Tires, Inc., the property owner of 211 Sumner St., requested closing the alley in January and provided signatures from all adjacent property owners after seeing an increase in theft and property damage. No objections were raised by city departments, and preliminary notices mailed to property owners within a 300-foot radius of the area also did not result in objections. 

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