'Get rid of that shop': Are legal highs killing Ham East?
Intimidation and threats have become daily routine for shoppers in Hamilton East as derelicts beg for cash to fuel their synthetic high habits.
A Grey St puff shop has done a roaring trade since it opened in August but it has brought an undesirable element to the area.
Local apprentice hairdresser Scott Taylor, 18, has lived in Hamilton East most of his life and said the number of beggars had increased and their behaviour had become worse.
"People begging for money - they obviously have no job or anything - people asking for drugs and they get abusive when you don't give them money. They yell at you, they scream at you, give you the finger."
They beg for money from workers in the mornings and it continues throughout the day and they use any excuse to get a few dollars - sick children, travel costs, food.
"Since the drug store opened up down the road the homeless people have got worse," Mr Taylor said. "The past year has been getting really bad."
He said he hears at least two complaints each day about beggars from customers and has noticed an increase in gang colours on the street but hopes the welcomed police presence will keep the agitation at bay.
"I've lived in Hamilton East all of my life and I love it," he said. "It's a great community feel and you know all of the shops and the people. It's just tearing it apart to have all of these people just turn up and wreck it for everybody."
Some of the beggars take an even more brazen approach and walk into shops and cafes to ask for money.
Babaganush duty manager Nicole Henriksen said a woman walked into the Turkish cafe to solicit money from diners.
They are just a few metres from the puff shop and the woman, who was a regular pavement walker, grabbed a chair and flung it down the footpath after she had been ushered out of the eatery.
A parked car was scraped but no-one hurt. Ms Henriksen said retailers have had enough and want the drug store gone.
"Get rid of that shop," she said. "It'll make things a whole lot better."