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The owner of a Philadelphia gas station chain hired private security guards with semi-automatic weapons to protect his property after a spate of burglaries, carjackings and vandalism — a move that has divided residents.
Neil Patel, who manages 22 gas stations around Philadelphia, told local media he was sick of crime in the city and decided to hire security personnel who are now seen around his gas stations in Kevlar vests and semi-automatic guns.
He argued that he wanted to keep his customers safe.
He told Fox 29: “They’re forcing us to hire security, high-level security, at the state level. We are tired of this nonsense; Robbery, drug trafficking, hanging around, gangs.”
WTXF-TV reported that Mr. Patel had hired private security from a group called “PA SITE Agency Security” and that in the past few weeks, his store’s ATM had been stolen twice. He said vandalism was common, as were carjackings.
Andre Boyer, a member of PA Site Agency Security, wrote in a post on Instagram that carjackings at gas stations in Philadelphia have increased by more than 300 percent, citing information from the FBI and the Philadelphia Police Department.
Mr. Bower posted a photo of Mr. Patel’s gas station in North Philadelphia with the caption: “Citizens now appreciate Philadelphia’s law enforcement and city council leaders as well as the mayor’s office. [sic] There simply isn’t a formula or an answer to combat this ever-growing ticking bomb that’s been mounting with shootings and murders in Philadelphia.
“Make no mistake folks, it’s dangerous out here. It’s the Wild Wild West in Philadelphia.”
“We are Pennsylvania state agents and we are not security,” Mr. Boyer told WHYY-FM. “Basically, what we do is the security detail when the public calls us when the police can’t be there.”
“My guards go to training every week, they are excellent [their guns] And with their tasers, they know the law,” he was quoted as saying by Fox 29.
Residents’ opinions on armed guards at gas stations are divided. Some users praised Mr Patel for taking action, with one user commenting on Twitter: “Armed guards are the way of the future. Law enforcement agencies and governments cannot be trusted.
Others sounded the alarm saying it was “uncomfortable”.
One user wrote: “Obviously I’m uncomfortable with this because it’s gotten to the point where a business owner is forced to take this action to protect his customers and store. This is a failure on the part of the Philadelphia PD, Governor @TomWolfPA and the Biden administration.
Mr Patel said: “I listen to them, but according to some people, violent people, they carry guns, they are not afraid of them? It’s protection for neighbors and customers.”