Defenders: Do you need a bodyguard while pumping gas?

DETROIT - If you drive a car, you have to gas it up. People do it every day without any problems, but crime stats don't lie. Police reports detail thousands of crimes at gas stations in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Patrons are harassed, beaten, carjacked, robbed and even shot.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the first step to preventing gas station crimes is to keep your tank full enough so you're never forced to get gas in a place you don't feel safe.

"Go to one you pick based on your safety requirements, one that is well lit with people around," Bouchard said.

What else can be done? Some gas station owners are promoting the hiring of private security and bodyguards to protect employees and customers.

"We protect people. And it's something that we've worked very hard for over a number of years to get the training and credentials to do it," said Mark Phillips, director of operations for Bodyguards Detroit. "If you're going have one thug out here robbing someone, they are going to have to contend with several of us well-trained bodyguards."

The bodyguards are intentionally visible to send a strong message that they're serious peacekeepers.

"Well, when we're not here, it's just too much crime. People want to shoot the place up, hold the place up," said bodyguard James Lewis.

Paul Clay is a self-employed security guard who was hired to protect customers getting gas a metro Detroit station.

"If there is something that we can't handle, that's a police issue, we definitely get in contact [with police]," Clay said.

It can be a costly investment for gas station owners to hire private security, but it can also pay off. Word spreads quickly where and when hired guns are watching customers' backs, which can leads to an increase in business.

Gas station safety from the National Crime Prevention Council:

  • Pick stations that are well-lit and have video surveillance cameras at the pump.
  • Always remove your keys and lock the doors while you are pumping gas.
  • Keep valuables out of plain view in your vehicle and lock the doors even if you are going inside for a moment.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings.
  • Don't let your cell phone distract you.

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