It's no secret Philadelphia is a dangerous city.
In 2019, the murder rate was 22.47 per 100,000 residents according to FBI data, with 331 homicides that year. Fast forward three years, and there have been 480 murders year-to-date.
Most affected are black males between the age of 18 and 45.
According to city statistics released in September, overall shootings have increased by 3% over last year, while violent crime is up 7%. Robberies involving guns are up 60%, while rapes are down more than 25%. Property crimes are up over 30%. Businesses getting hit particularly hard - with commercial burglaries up a staggering 50%, according to Axios Philadelphia. What's more, the city's drug crisis is spiraling further out of control with a new drug called "Tranq" - an anesthetic and pain reliever used to treat horses and cattle, and which turns people into zombies.
Crime is so out of control that the Philadelphia City Council recently approved a 10 p.m. curfew for anyone under the age of 18 - making a temporary summertime law permanent.
To combat the crime wave, Philadelphia gas station owners have turned to hiring heavily armed guards.
"They are forcing us to hire the security, high-level security, state level," said Karco gas station owner, Neil Patel, who has recruited Kevlar-clad S.I.T.E. agents packing AR-15s or shotguns. "We are tired of this nonsense; robbery, drug trafficking, hanging around, gangs," Fox5 reports.
The final straw for Patel after his business was reportedly vandalized by young people who stole an ATM machine. His car has also been a casualty of crime, according to the report.
"We wear Kevlar, we are trained, my guards go to training every other week, they're proficient with [their guns] and with their taser, they know the law," said police chief Andre Boyer.
A realtime online poll on Fox5's website reveals that 93% say they feel safer with guards who have AR-15s at gas stations:
When asked about residents who are concerned over the gun-toting guards, Patel said: "I listen to them, but according to some people, violent people, they carry the guns, they're not afraid of them? This is the protection for the neighborhood and the customers."