From hemp jewelry to caricatures, peddling without a permit is getting tougher in downtown Tempe.
In response to business and citizen complaints, police are conducting sting operations on illegal street vendors.
Sgt. Kevin Renwick said that artists and jewelry makers can accept donations for their work, but they break the law once a price is negotiated or sought.
"We should be able to give them a quarter and take everything they are offering," Renwick said.
The city issues street vending permits only for kiosks and sidewalk cafes, said Jim Cristia, Tempe engineering services administrator.
Renwick said his bike squad has been warning illegal vendors for at least six months that they cannot sell their goods without a permit.
Many are on a first-name basis with members of his unit and know they are breaking the law, he said.
During a June 11 roundup, officers with Renwick’s bicycle squad arrested four vendors. The operation lasted about 90 minutes. Since then, the number of vendors has dropped.
"That’s only because we made those arrests a few weeks ago," he said.
But some business owners and other individuals said they are concerned that discouraging street vendors could dampen downtown Tempe’s eclectic atmosphere.
That atmosphere is promoted. Recently, the Tempe City Council decided musicians and other street entertainers don’t need entertainment permits. The move was to attract more to downtown to create a vibrant, urban feel — and attract more shoppers.
Illegal vendors are different, some say. They set up shop on Mill Avenue sidewalks in front of businesses, and could chase away potential customers.
"If you really want a vibrant city, you don’t mind having good street musicians and entertainers," said Vic Linoff, owner of Those Were the Days. "But this is more scamming for money."
Linoff, who has run his business in Tempe for nearly 30 years, said taking the illegal vendors off the streets will not hinder the city’s pursuit of an urban environment.
With four high-rise and high priced condominiums going up downtown, Linoff said Mill Avenue needs to be cleaned up.
"We’re on the cusp of a great change, and the process we’re going through will increase in the days ahead to help keep this a good place to visit," he said.