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Homeless creating problems in Independence neighborhood, residents say

Neighbors say they are defecating, stealing
Posted: 6:34 PM, Oct 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-27 16:42:06Z

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Independence residents who live near 24 Highway and North River Boulevard are growing worried about what they call an increasing homeless population. 

"You can hear them diving through the dumpsters at night, you can watch them walking up the streets. They steal gas from vehicles if it's not locked," said one neighbor who did not want to be identified. 

She said she doesn't even feel safe in her own home anymore.

"I will not shower unless my husband is home. I just don't trust them," she said. "Even though I'm in my own home, locks are only for the honest."

The neighbor believes the homeless camp out in the wooded area next to her house. Another neighbor who didn't want to be identified told 41 Action News that some of the homeless defecate in her yard. Now she keeps the lights on a night. 

Resident Cindy Stewart said that homeless people often approach her.

"They will walk up and down the street asking if I have like a dollar, something to help them out," she said. 

While she doesn't like seeing the homeless on the streets, she said that she wished she could find a solution. 

"I try to help out as much as I can. I'm a mother of five," Stewart said. 

Independence police have been called out to the neighborhood in the past to resolve homeless issues. Officer Luis Virgil said he's also noticed an uptick in homeless in the area. 

"It's not a law enforcement problem, but it always seems to fall on us to go out there and take care of it. It's more of a community problem," Virgil said.

This week, police presented a plan to the Independence City Council to help resolve the issue, identifying where these homeless camps are and adding them to a database. 

"Primarily focus on outreach first. There will be an enforcement portion, but it will only be if they committed a crime and further down the line if they're on private property and choose not to leave," Virgil said.

Police urge residents not to confront homeless people and call police if they have an issue with them. Officers will then identify them and give them resources.