SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A local business owner says homeless people are disrupting her store and threatening her safety.
Leah Bailey claims law enforcement and the city are not doing enough to stop the issue, forcing her and her employees to take matters into their own hands.
Video footage showed what Bailey says is a homeless man stealing planters right outside of Leah Bailey Interiors in downtown Savannah. It’s a retail space and design studio right next to each other.
Bailey says she’s only been at this location for a little over two months now, and it has been a constant struggle trying to keep the homeless away.
“As soon as we moved into the design studio next door, we noticed a huge issue with the homeless,” she said. “Sleeping on the front steps of our building, sleeping on the sides of our building.”
“We immediately started calling authorities to try and help us move them along, clean up their belongings,” she continued. “We’ve gotten some help, but we’ve taken a lot of matters into our own hands by telling the homeless to move along.”
Bailey says the vacant bank right across the street houses many of the homeless. She says they are urinating and defecating on her building and are leaving trash and other belongings behind.
She says neither the city nor Savannah Police have done much to help ease the problem.
“We’re not getting the patrol from the police offices when we’re not here,” Bailey said. “Even when we are here we’re still not seeing them patrolling, so our issue is our hands are tied.
The most recent issue happened Monday morning when a homeless man was blocking the entrance and became angry when an employee asked him to move.
“He yells and he calls me out of my name and I turned around and he’s running towards me now. So, at this point, I get my weapon and I’m like I don’t know if he has a gun, I don’t know if he has a knife, I’m not sure,” said Janet Foy Lindsey, a finance employee. “I’m scared at this point. I’m threatened now. I did not have to use my weapon. We had words and he walked away. I then came inside, locked the door and I called the authorities.”
The Savannah Police Department released this statement about the incident to News 3 and it reads, in part:
This morning SPD responded to an incident at Leah Bailey Interiors involving an employee and a man who appeared to be sleeping near the entrance of the business. When officers arrived, the subject had already left. Officers searched the area but were unable to locate anyone matching the description. They continue to investigate the incident and are attempting to locate camera footage to assist in identifying the person responsible. While the investigation is ongoing, officers are working with the business to address safety concerns at the property. The Central Precinct Neighborhood Resource Officer has also reached out to the business owner to assist in developing a safety plan.
Bailey and her employees fear the worst, and hope officials can do more to solve the issue.
“Is it gonna take one of us to be hurt, or worse, for somebody to stand up and take charge of the situation?” Lindsey said. “I don’t care if it’s the county or the city, or both, but something has to be done, something has to be done.”
Mayor Van Johnson also released a statement about the incident to WSAV:
While this unfortunate incident is under investigation by the Savannah Police Department, it is no secret that Savannah, like other cities in this country, has its challenges with homelessness. While the city and our partners continue to address these matters aggressively, we will not tolerate criminal behavior and act accordingly. When illegal activity occurs, no matter who does it, residents are encouraged to keep a safe distance where possible and contact the Police Department.