Several owners of businesses in downtown Harlan appeared before city council Monday night to report problems with suspected prostitution and drug dealing in the area.
“Our concern is what appears to be prostitution and drug dealing on our street,” Tera Day, the owner of Perfect 10 on Main Street, said. “I mean the start of today I had 12 women outside my door. Customers are afraid to come in. They (women) range from young to old and they just hang around on our street.”
Day said women and men loitering “have taken over the street” and are scaring customers.
If the suspected illegal activity continues, Day said, it will do further damage to downtown businesses who are already struggling for customers.
“We don’t want to close our businesses down. We don’t want to move elsewhere. We want downtown to look great,” Day added. “We take care of our stores and we want to stay put.”
Harlan Police Chief Mike Thomas said, while Day was in the process of informing council of the situation, he had dispatched an ofﬁcer to look into the situation, and at the end of the meeting reported “four of the regulars” had been dispersed from the area.
“We will address that situation the best we can,” Thomas said. “I will check our city ordinances and see what we can do about the loitering and the congregating.”
Day and other business owners said the situation has escalated within the past month.
“I have seen it happening from inside my store,” Day said. “I have threatened to write down license numbers, but I am not the law.”
It was suggested that some of the problem is coming from people who live in upstairs apartments on Main Street.
“By all means if it (illegal activity) is happening, give us a call,” Thomas said.
Harlan Mayor Danny Howard cautioned the business owners about becoming too involved in solving the problem.
“I want you to be involved but I don’t want anyone to think you are picking on them,” Howard said. “We will find out where they live and if they live in the area we will contact the landlord.”
One business owner, who did not want to be identified, said, “If we don’t clean up Main Street we are not going to have Main Street. I have been here 30 years and I have never seen it so bad.”
Howard assured the business owners he would work on getting the problem resolved this week.
“We will have a plan by Friday,” he said. “We will not have them interfering with your ability to conduct business.”
The mayor also promised to respond to another downtown-related problem reported during the meeting.
Fred Rose, owner of Harlan Paint and Wallpaper, said his main concern was “that, maybe six or eight years ago, in order to recycle our cardboard, we built a bin between our store and Bowling Furniture and it has become a city dump.”
Rose said he did not know who was responsible for the problem but added, “there are couches, bags of garbage, rats and everything in the world in there. Instead of being a recycle bin it is a garbage bin.”
Howard told Rose he would have the area cleaned up.
Kevin Halpern may be reached at 606-573-4510