PHILADELPHIA — The owner of a North Philadelphia gas station says he took security measures into his own hands to keep his customers and employees safe.
Neil Patel hired a private security company, Pennsylvania State Agents, to patrol his KARCO gas station at Broad and Clearfield streets three weeks ago, and now he has a daily armed presence with at least two agents on the premise nightly.
“We’re Pennsylvania State Agents and we’re not security. Basically, what we do is security details when the public calls upon us when the police can’t be there,” explained Andre Boyer.
Boyer said when they first arrived to the gas station, people took notice immediately.
“The first week, there was tension from the public seeing someone with an AR shotgun walking around,” said Boyer, who said some people asked,”‘Why are you here? Are we in Beirut?'”
Customer Jack Rock said he was OK with their presence.
“I have my license to carry, I’m always ready to go for myself, so it’s like whatever… It’s nice and safe for me. I get my juice, go to my car without somebody else jumping in it,” said Rock.
Patel owns 22 gas stations in the region, 12 of them are in Philadelphia. He says the crime targeting customers and his store and employees is rampant.
There was a shooting at the gas station on Easter Sunday. Patel says people are shoplifting and selling drugs daily and an ATM was stolen several weeks ago.
Patel says police don’t respond in a timely manner, so he had to come up with a better approach to protect lives and his livelihood.
Selling their drugs openly. Cops here, they don’t do anything. Robberies, stealings, vandlizing my car,” Patel said.
ABC7’s sister station Action News completed an analysis of Philadelphia police data. It shows firearm robberies at gas stations have more than tripled over the last few years, and other crimes are on the rise as well.
Philadelphia-based attorney David Thiruselvam primarily represents victims of crimes. He currently has nine clients who are suing gas station owners after his clients were shot on their premises.
Thiruselvam says, by Pennsylvania law, owners must protect customers from known dangers.
“When you have shootings and things like that going up and down the street, up and down around you, you should know that could come on your property,” said Thiruselvam.