Crime & Safety

Wawa closes ⁠i⁠n Ph⁠i⁠lly, c⁠i⁠⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ng cr⁠i⁠me

August 9, 2023

Crime & Safety

August 9, 2023

Last month, Wawa announced they are closing yet another store in City Center Philadelphia due to an increase in crime. The grocery store and gas station chain has closed six locations in and around the city since 2020, citing safety and security concerns. For a Pennsylvania icon to be shutting down this many stores, something is clearly wrong. 

The most recent closure at Headhouse Square is a painful reminder that crime is a local problem that has local consequences because when crime goes unchecked it affects more than just the direct victims. A once-thriving city block is now home to a shuttered CVS and Wawa. The neighborhood now has less access to groceries and other amenities while former employees are left out of work.

It’s hard to live out the principles of the American Dream in a nation where laws are not enforced and criminals are not prosecuted. Philadelphia has one of the highest crime rates in America, and it’s taking its toll on the city. Even as violent crime has had a slight downtick, the overall crime rate is still causing stores to close and citizens to feel unsafe – even when they’re just craving a hoagie from the local Wawa.

One of the root causes of this in Philadelphia, along with other major cities, is a growing reluctance to prosecute certain types of crime. A report last year places much of the blame for the city’s growing crime on Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who threw out many of the cases brought before him, effectively putting criminals back on the streets. The report found that 65% of violent crime and 20% of gun charges were dismissed before they were even prosecuted. 

Despite the 79% of Americans who believe that there should be stronger sentences for violent and repeat offenders, big city DAs have insisted on decreasing them. Not only does this put more criminals back on the streets where they terrorize law-abiding citizens trying to shop at the local Wawa, but it also breaks the public trust. 

Laws mean nothing if they are not enforced. When bringing in jobs, access to groceries and tax revenue to a city, businesses expect that city to hold up their end of the bargain by creating and enforcing laws that keep them safe. Stores should not have to decrease hours and hire private security just to keep their doors open, but that’s exactly what Wawa did before deciding to close. 

Fortunately, there are reasonable solutions that could keep Wawa and other stores like it from needing to close their doors, starting with strengthening sentences for repeat offenders. A study in Atlanta found that 40% of all crime was committed by 1,000 people. The New York Times discovered that one-third of all shoplifting in NYC was committed by just 327 individuals. These 327 individuals were re-arrested, collectively, over 6,000 times. 

By strengthening sentences for repeat offenders, cities can see an almost immediate decrease in crime by taking repeat offenders off the streets. 

Along with strengthening sentences, cities can also work to help prevent the circumstances that lead to repeat offenders. America has the highest recidivism rate of any nation in the world. But there are programs that have proven to reduce repeat offenses. By increasing access to mental health care in prisons, mandating post release treatment programs, expanding in prison educational opportunities and reducing unnecessary professional licensing barriers upon release, men and women are significantly less likely to reoffend.

Local businesses deserve the respect of law and order as they serve their communities. How many more businesses need to close before we start to change our tactics?