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WinCo Foods, Bakersfield Police work to stop Saturday night parking lot crowd

WinCo Foods is working to stop the large crowds of car and truck enthusiasts from gathering in the parking lot on Panama Lane. (Photo credit: Dusty Meyers)

WinCo Foods is stepping up enforcement at the Panama Lane location after receiving complaints from employees, customers and neighbors about large crowds of car enthusiasts that gather in the parking lot on Saturday nights.

The company will be increasing parking lot security, bringing in tow trucks and creating traffic barriers.

"We are receiving calls weekly," Bakersfield Police spokesperson Sgt. Brian Holcombe said.

He said the cars and people are loud and they've been getting calls for years.

"They can range anywhere from peace disturbance, fights, street races and even shots fired," Holcombe said.

Holcombe was not immediately able to confirm if any of the "shots fired" calls turned out to be true.

Holcombe said BPD has responded in the past, but the crowds continue to gather.

"We've impounded vehicles, we've made arrests, we've gone to these different areas where they gather and cited them for reckless driving," he said.

"WinCo has heard very clearly the complaints and the concerns of our neighbors and our customers," WinCo spokesperson Noah Fleisher said.

Fleisher said this Saturday things will be different. The company is bringing in additional security and tow trucks. They also have signs up warning people of "no loitering" and "customer parking only." WinCo said the company will also add flexible traffic poles and speed bumps to discourage the group from entering.

"It's our sincere hope that this will help and it will help significantly," Fleisher said of what he called "crazy activity."

Bakersfield Police said they worked with WinCo suggesting the company make these changes.

Tuesday the department went to the store to take pictures of some of the alterations being made.

"These are some great measures that will help us address some of the biggest concerns," Holcombe said.

He said the signage WinCo put up will help police enforce the no loitering policy on the private property.

"We don't have a problem with people gathering. There are car enthusiasts all over Bakersfield, all over Kern County that can gather. However, the street racing, the fighting, some of the loud noises, and especially when it comes to the reckless driving, these are the things we are hoping to curtail," Holcombe said.

Bakersfield Police said they will be on standby this weekend and will watch to see if the changes help the situation.

There is a group on Facebook called "Saturday Night Meets."

They often post videos and pictures online of the gatherings.

In a Facebook message the group admin said WinCo is just one place people meet.

The page admin said, "the meets here in Bakersfield have been going on for a long time, there’s always new locations even multiple locations at once."

At this point no one wanted to comment about the action being taken in attempt to stop them.

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