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Detroit gas station turns to siren, school bell to combat loitering

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By Ron Savage
Fox 2 News


DETROIT (WJBK) -- A gas station is forced to deal with loiterers.  We're told there have been fights, assaults and drug deals.  Sadly it's not a unique problem, but one business owner has come up with his own solution to take a bite out of crime.

Surveillance video shows groups of guys from ages 17 into their early twenties loitering inside a Sunoco gas station on Eight Mile near Grand River on Detroit's west side.

"They're selling drugs inside the store.  They're selling drugs out of their cars at the pumps.  They even have the audacity to roll their weed inside the store and smoke their weed inside the store, and it's just ridiculous," said Rafat Iwies.

It has been a family run business for 20 years, but this is the worst.  Customers are scared.

Video shows a guy joking.  He throws a swing at another guy and misses.  The clerk watched them for an hour and a half in the store.  Then while smoking a cigarette inside, the same guy makes a gun with his fingers and yells threats he says are jokes.

"The police (try), but I think that something else has to be done," Iwies said.

"You tell them to beat it and you don't get a reaction," I asked.

"We don't get a reaction.  We tell them to leave and they'll stay," he answered.

Loitering is illegal.  It's posted, but it's never a high priority.  The clerks see fights, drug sales and one man was beaten up, his pockets picked as he laid on the floor.

So what can be done when too many people stuff the store and won't leave and drug sales are also visible?  Iwies found a siren to a fire engine for sale.  He put the siren at the counter.  It's made to clear streets, so it's pretty effective in the store.  He also bought a school bell.

"We're trying so many different things just to push them away, even with loud noise just to push them out.  We're trying everything," said Iwies.

Here's something customers don't see.  Iwies is a classically trained pianist.  He squeezes in practice time inside his gas station office.  He's good, business is bad, and with a .357 strapped to his hip, he played a sad sonata.  It's a real tragedy of our time, young people not in school, not working, and while a fire engine siren and a school bell may not be the answer, this family is hoping it just might help.

Detroit Police say they are committed to making safety checks.  Officers are signing in on the police log at the Sunoco station.  They come by twice a day, but Rafat told us as soon as the cruiser checks in and leaves, which takes about five minutes, the trouble returns.

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