Oklahoma City business owner facing homeless problems and thefts

Local

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A metro business owner said he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place while he tries to balance helping the homeless people surrounding his guitar shop and keeping his business a safe environment for his customers.

“Here we are. What do we do? These people are struggling just like everyone else, and that’s the rock and a hard place,” said Zachary Smith, owner of Gear Exchange near Northwest 36th and Grand.

Friday morning, Smith found a pile of shattered glass where his 1982 Ford F-250 once stood. Smith and his father recently spent more than $7,000 to transform it into a camper to take to the Wichita Mountains and the Grand Canyon.

“They clearly smashed the window and hopped in it and took off,” he said. “I was like, ‘Great. One more thing that we’re going to have to do I guess.’”

Smith believes someone in the homeless population surrounding his business is to blame. He said several company cars, trailers, tools and customer’s belongings have also been hit.

Photo goes with story
Zachary Smith’s 1982 Ford F-250 was stolen.

In 2019, KFOR covered a customer jumping in his own car as a thief tried to take off with it.

“I feel like I’ve been taken advantage of by some of them,” said Smith.

Smith said over the years, he’s developed a relationship with some in the homeless population. He even knows them by name. Smith said he gives them water and lets them use his restroom, but some chose to use his building as a toilet instead.

“A man was clearly 100 percent exposed, dropping a deuce and was actually reading a magazine,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of shopping carts with their belongings. I’ve seen people doing drugs in the parking lot, selling drugs in the parking lot.”

Smith said he feels for them, but has to protect his livelihood.

“The police have told me they’re just overrun with calls about this. There really isn’t anything they can do,” Smith told News 4.

OKC police allegedly told Smith to put up a fence, but he said that’s not an option.

“We have a huge natural gas line that runs right next to the MAPS 3, the new trail here in Oklahoma City. I don’t think that I’d be able to put a fence there,” said Smith. “It’s always heartbreaking because there isn’t really anything I know to do.”

“The issue isn’t, ‘Let’s take these people to jail.’ That’s a bad system. Let’s help them somehow,” he said.

At this point, Smith is hoping to get his truck back, but doesn’t see that happening.

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