SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Business owners on and around the longtime Plaza Shopping Center are getting increasingly frustrated with a rise in crime around their stores. 

“It definitely makes our customers feel uncomfortable as they’re walking in or coming across the parking lot,” James Woodson with Cook’s Appliance said.  

Woodson says he’s seen enough. 

“We’ve found paraphernalia and feces, things like that, just making an environment that’s just very unsafe for customers to be traversing in and out of our business,” Woodson said.  

Other stores share similar experiences. 

“We’ve actually have people that will sleep behind our building,” Cheryl Briggs with DermaHealth said. “They will walk around our building. I’ve not had them be destructive at all to my property. I’ve had to move my chairs and my benches to back behind [the building]. I have had to come in and pick up needles, their alcohol bottles, their trash that they leave behind sometimes their clothing.” 

“I’ve noticed a huge uptick of homelessness just around here, and there’s a little ditch over there behind our trash canisters. There’s a, um, like a, a long trench of a ditch behind the flower shop, and it’s just that’s just littered it,” Theresa Carter-Hess, owner of RoseAmongThorns said. “It’s scary, and I’ve actually seen a couple of syringes back there, too. People pilfer through our trash, and then they essentially just leave it all over the place.” 

Owners met Monday morning to discuss options going forward, including asking for an increase in police around the area, private security or a neighborhood watch. 

“I think with the increased presence of the police, that would definitely help, you know, help people, you know, start moving on, you know, instead of instead of just hanging out and, you know, loitering,” Woodson said. “It’ll actually get them to move to get to where their ultimate point is supposed to be instead of just hanging out in front of businesses.” 

“Would I like to have police presence? I would love it. Would Chief Williams like to have a full police force? I can guarantee he would love to have that, and would he like to have the area of all the areas of Springfield patrolled for this? Um, that would be great,” Briggs said. “I think working together as our community, as local business owners, one thing that I have suggested is having a business neighborhood watch.” 

“I would be interested in all of the above. I know there’s places out there to help people that are in a crisis or homeless. I know that there’s places out there,” Carter-Hess said. “Those places, you have to go by a certain amount of rules, and we’re dealing with a large population of people who have no rules.” 

Previously, Springfield Police had officers target that area for patrol. 

OzarksFirst reached out to Springfield Police who declined an interview for this story but issued a statement saying, “There is a regular police presence in the area as part of regular uniformed patrol. 

Any future directed patrol efforts (provided by officers working overtime) would be the result of ongoing conversations with business and property owners and the police department on how best to address their concerns.” 

Owners tell OzarksFirst they plan on meeting again on October 2.