Thieves target Detroit gas station, despite police surveillance

Should officers' response have been quicker? Owner questions Project Green Light

DETROIT – Brazen shoplifters were caught on tape stealing from a Detroit gas station, and the incident has left the store owner as upset with the police chief as he is with the people responsible.

Valero gas station owner Mohammad Rustam said the video should have alerted the Detroit Police Department sooner, because as a Project Green Light station, officers should have been watching the theft as it unfolded.

The shoplifting took place Wednesday night at the Valero on Schoolcraft Avenue. A man tried to walk out with some laundry detergent in his pocket, but the clerk, who was clearly onto him, locked the doors.

That’s when the man kicked -- until he broke the doors open.

The following night, two men showed up at the gas station. One held the door open while another stuffed a few cans of motor oil in his pants and then, scooping up about a dozen more, walked out.

“Two days in a row we are getting robbed,” Rustam said. “And I have a camera inside the store where Detroit police are supposed to be watching it -- live.”

The oil thieves have hit three of Rustam’s stores in the past week and a half, he said, but more than anything, he’s mad because his is a Green Light station, meaning he partners with Detroit police.

It’s a program police Chief James Craig has touted many times since it started in January.
"Suspects are now making different decisions,” Craig said in October. “They see that prominent green light -- I gotta believe they're going to think twice. Some don't care and we're going to make the arrest."

Police did respond both nights, but so far, have been unable to make any arrests.

“We’re paying every month,” Rustam said. “So if the police is watching, what are they doing for us?”

It costs $160 a month per station, plus $1,000 for installation. Rustam said for that kind of money, he expects results.

“They need to step up and they need to get these guys off the street,” Rustam said. “But right now, to me, it's just like a blinking green light. It don't mean s---. It's not protecting nobody.”

Police said they were monitoring the situation as it happened, when the man at the gas station was kicking in the door. Officers are reviewing the tape and expect to have the men in custody soon.

About the Author:

Jason is Local 4’s utility infielder. In addition to anchoring the morning newscast, he often reports on a variety of stories from the tragic, like the shootings at Michigan State, to the off-beat, like great gas station food.