PHILADELPHIA (TND) — Armed guards wearing bulletproof vests and carrying rifles now patrol the streets outside a Philadelphia cheesesteak shop, according to a local report.
Jim’s West Steaks and Hoagies has generated so much excitement over its recent reopening that lines now stretch down the block, ABC 6 reports. Though their presence is intimidating to some, the guards have no issue with customers as store owners have taken it upon themselves to hire the guards as a crime deterrent measure.
Store ownership explained the decision was due to increased violence in the area.
The violence has spiked. It goes up and down. You want people to feel safe and be safe. So when they come out and eat, they don't have to worry about no type of harm,” co-owner Cortez Johnson told ABC 6.
The guards are employees of security company Presidential Protection Services and each is sworn and certified by the state while off duty from other work like military service or law enforcement.
Hiring the guards, store owners say, is a necessary precaution required to operate their business.
Our lines are down the block, so while you're standing here in line, connecting with other people you may not know, we have security right here just to keep you guys safe," Saul Landers, the CFO of Jim's West, said. "If you want to secure your business and you want to make sure everyone is safe, you have to spend that extra money.”
In 2022, the city saw 516 homicides, the Philadelphia Police Department reports. So far in 2023, there have been 313, a 19% year-to-date decrease.
Jim’s West is not the first business in the city to take drastic measures to protect its property and customers. Neil Patel, who owns a gas station in North Philadelphia, hired private security to patrol the property after the ATM at his store was stolen twice over the course of a few weeks.
Business owners and residents in several other cities, including Beverly Hills, Calif., San Francisco and Baltimore, have opted to hire private security firms for protection from violent and retail crime.
Critics point to lack of support for law enforcement, progressive prosecutors and lenient local laws for the significant public safety concerns plaguing several major American cities.