Crossroads business community frustrated by aggressive homeless, campers on land

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A filthy plot of land in Kansas City's Midtown area has attracted the wrong crowd, and neighboring merchants say its affecting their business.

It's hard to do business like this, according to those merchants. Business operators in the Crossroads District said they want the piece of property at 17th and Campbell cleaned up. Trash and yard waste have piled up there since the fall, and it's attracted a homeless camp.

Owners at Studio Inc. are among the merchants who told FOX4 they have to keep their doors locked because people from that camp often come across the street, enter their offices and disrupt business.

"We're worried about theft. Worried about property damage," said Mike Martinez, local manager at HERC Rentals. "One or two tents went up. Then it's 3 or 4."

Police estimate as many as 20 people are living in that homeless camp, which sits near the U.S. Highway 69 overpass, and some of them could be dangerous.

"We're trying to conduct business. We also worry about the safety of our employees and customers being harassed or leaving out of here at night," Martinez said.

Martinez's rental store sits at 16th and Charlotte. He said one of those homeless people recently started a fire in his store's bathroom, and it's because of that and other incidents that compelled him to keep most of his store's doors locked.

"It hurts business all around. if you're afraid to shop somewhere, if you're afraid to go somewhere, we're all going to lose business," Martinez said.

That plot of land where the homeless camp sits is owned by MoDOT.

Kansas City police told FOX4 they can't remove people from the area since there are no signs indicating the property as being private.

Markl Johnson, a spokesperson for MoDOT, said that agency has already cleaned the area once, and MoDOT doesn't have the authority to remove people from that area. Johnson said only law enforcement can do that.

"We need all the help we can get," Jeff Owens, a board member with the Crossroads Community Association, said Wednesday morning.

Owens, who has done business in the Crossroads area for more than 30 years, said business operators first asked MoDOT for help in October, but the homeless and rubbish are still there.

"They're incredibly frustrated. They don't like doing anything that will make anyone upset or hurt, but on the other hand. They have businesses to run, their livelihoods and their families. It's a tricky situation," Owens said.

Owens added that he wants to install some no trespassing signs on the property. He admits it isn't much, but police tell him there`s little more they can do until neighborhood vagrants move on.

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