Local businesses frustrated with panhandlers in downtown Harrisonburg

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- Some business owners in downtown Harrisonburg are frustrated with panhandlers trespassing and becoming violent on their property.

Cropped Photo: Alex Proimos / CC BY 2.0 (MGN)

At a meeting Tuesday night, several business owners brought up their concerns to city council, in hopes to move closer to a workable solution.

This discussion comes two weeks after a dog was found dead in Denton Park – a small urban park located on South Main Street in downtown Harrisonburg.

Local businesses owners described the situation as a 'violent encounter' involving members of the homeless population and said the incident raised safety concerns.

"Anytime behavior can escalate into violence is a cause for concern for the community, visitors, families with kids, everybody," said one business owner. "The whole situation is really just about the general safety of our community."

The owners asked council to increase police presence in the downtown area to combat the issue.

In response, council said it's the responsibility of the community to call and report any trespassing or violent behavior to the police.

Two weeks ago, Mayor Deanna Reed held two meetings with stakeholders to discuss solutions for the homelessness issue in Harrisonburg.

In an interview, Reed told WHSV that addressing the issue is one of her top priorities.