WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- A downtown business owner says he thinks new benches from the 3rd Street Improvement Project are causing problems at his gas station.
New Hanover County 911 has received more than 100 calls about problems at the corner of N. 3rd and Red Cross streets in the past six months alone.
The benches just outside the Family Fare gas station in downtown Wilmington have become a popular spot for some.
"The transient population sits here," says Michael Britt, who hangs at the benches. "They use the store to get coffee in the morning, network with each other. You know, 'What are you doing today?' You know, 'Where is a job might be available?'"
But station owner Ash Tilahun, who did not want to go on camera, says the benches are bad for business. And with 74 911 calls to this location in the past three months, on top of the recent increase in violence in the Port City, law enforcement, fire and EMS have their hands full.
But those who frequent the benches say the benches are not to blame.
"The transients are going to keep coming here regardless of whether the benches are here or not," Britt said. "There's two shelters that are rather close to here, and also a food bank, so the transients are going to come here anyway."
Stephen Roy agrees.
"It's not the benches, because it was the same way before the benches were here," he said.
Britt says it is a few bad apples ruining it for the bunch.
"They are actually nice people in the station. They put up with everything to a degree, and, you know, some guys push that and take that extra inch as far as they can," Britt said. "And of course, probably alcohol plays a factor in that."
City spokeswoman Malissa Talbert says if the city becomes aware of a problem caused specifically by the benches, they will get more information in effort to identify what problems there might be, if any, and take action if necessary.
Tilahun says it is a shame the benches are not being used for their original purpose.
He says either the city needs to take them away or have law enforcement patrol the area.