Wawa, which has locations in multiple states along the East Coast, announced on Thursday that the company would close two locations in Center City, the main business district in Philadelphia and home to City Hall. Both stores had been contracting private security services due to an increase in thefts.
“Despite reducing hours and investing in additional operational measures, continued safety and security challenges and business factors have made it increasingly difficult to remain open in these two locations,” Wawa spokeswoman Lori Bruce said in a statement to the Philadelphia Inquirer. She added that the “difficult decision” occurred after careful deliberation and efforts to overcome “external operating challenges.”
Kenney later insisted that the closures are not indicative of a broader decline in Philadelphia. “I don’t think it’s a bad omen at all,” he told reporters at a Friday event. “These two particular places have unique issues that had to be dealt with in a way that was more expensive for them to keep it open.”
The closures, however, follow an incident in which nearly 100 young people ransacked a Wawa location in northeastern Philadelphia last month. Viral video shows the teenagers pushing over shelves, throwing items across the store, and shoplifting snacks. Group robberies have increased across the United States over the past two years, with some retailers introducing new security efforts and convenience chains such as Walgreens closing locations.
Beyond the two locations in the downtown part of the city, Philadelphia Councilmember Mike Driscoll said during a Tuesday town hall that a recent discussion with Wawa executives left him concerned that the company will nix millions of dollars in investment and countless jobs.
“They’ve had to invest in security … security doesn’t add anything to your bottom line, it takes away from your bottom line,” he said. “But without it, then you’re in deep trouble. So they are spending money, they’re losing money. The scariest part to me is one of the senior officials said, ‘We’re seriously considering moving out of the city of Philadelphia in our strategic planning, at least not to expand.’”
Earlier this year, Kenney provoked criticism after he responded to an Independence Day shooting, in which the assailant injured two police officers, by remarking that he looks forward to no longer serving as mayor. “There’s not an event or a day where I don’t lay on my back and look at the ceiling and worry about stuff. So everything we have in the city over the last seven years, I worry about,” Kenney said. “I don’t enjoy the Fourth of July, I don’t enjoy the Democratic National Convention, I don’t enjoy the NFL draft, I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time.”
The City of Brotherly Love witnessed a record 562 homicides last year, according to data from the Philadelphia Police Department, with murders currently trending slightly behind year-to-date figures. State lawmakers have launched an investigation into Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, who has prioritized changes to the criminal justice system such as lax bail policies and reduced prosecutions.