Gas stations need to do more to protect customers from violence

Gas Stations Need to Do More to Protect Customers from Violence

If you feel vulnerable while filling up your tank, it’s not just your imagination. According to a survey by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S gas stations are the site of approximately 63,530 violent crimes per year. That’s almost as many as hotel rooms, banks, and public transport stations put together.

Such crimes are so common that they almost run together on the news. In November of 2018, a drug deal in an Atlanta gas station turned sour and became a shooting that killed two people. Less than a week later over in College Park, another pair of people were shot at a gas station, one in the face and one in the hip. The next day, another young man was fatally shot while pumping gas in DeKalb County.

In most of these cases, the gas stations had security cameras, but criminals know that no one is responding to what the cameras capture. After one assault at a gas station in Brookhaven, in which the victim had to fight off her assailant with the help of a couple of bystanders, the victim’s frustrated husband collected the security footage and tracked down the culprit himself.

Many Locations Take Steps to Protect Employees, but Not the Public

It’s easy to understand why gas stations make such tempting targets for crime. While using the pumps, customers have to get out of their cars and stand out in the open with their keys and wallets, waiting for their tanks to fill. It’s an ideal opportunity for a carjacking, mugging, or other crime that requires cornering a victim.

Gas station owners are clearly aware of the threat of crime, sometimes providing bulletproof stalls to protect their attendants (and cash). Even with these precautions, however, gas station employees still suffer the second highest rate of retail workplace homicides, and the customers outside that bulletproofing receive no protection at all.

This is the very definition of negligent security: the failure to protect guests from known, foreseeable dangers. Local government has even started trying to force gas stations to address the problem. As of 2017, gas stations can lose their liquor licenses for failing to employ a security guard after their first major crime — but only in unincorporated Fulton County. For now, litigation remains the most effective available method of holding most negligent gas stations responsible.

A Security Presence Can Deter Violence and Stop Harassment

At first, the image of a lone security guard standing up to the heavily armed and often organized crime that causes so many gas station deaths may seem overly optimistic, but not all crime on gas station premises is so dramatic. Gas stations are also common sites of non-organized sexual harassment and assault, as well as favorite haunts for scam artists, identity thieves, and aggressive panhandlers, who sometimes turn violent or even deadly when refused. These activities are well within a security guard’s ability to stop. Better still, when a gas station doesn’t have these signals constantly broadcasting its inability or unwillingness to prevent crime, it makes a less appealing site for armed robberies and gang violence in the first place.

If you’ve been a victim of a shooting or other crime at a gas station, the Stoddard Firm can help.