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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.

Comment on this Story

  • Downtowner

    I witnessed mounted officers with the Wilmington Police Department approach and address individuals seated on this bench earlier today. I commend the WPD for making efforts to improve any problems which may originate there. Yet, I expect there is little that can be done to anyone sitting there unless they are breaking a law or have an outstanding warrant, regardless of how often or how long they occupy the bench.

  • Guestomfg

    “Tilahun says it is a shame the benches are not being used for their original purpose.” ??? Whats a bench for? Looks? Drunks need to sit somewhere and the city should have known that. lol

  • Beth Stringfield

    Heaven forbid that a homeless person has some place to sit, get a cup of coffee or seek out a job.

  • SurfCityTom

    give them all harmonicas and kazoos? Then they become street entertainers subject to that witless ordinance intended to control street persons who panhandle through entertaining.

  • 9743

    I wonder if Mr. Tilahun has called the police because these same people he’s complaining about are coming in his store spending money on beer and wine.

  • 456

    you cant even sit on a bench without someone calling the police on you. this whole country is a prison full of evil and hate towards one another . cops shot first ask questions later , on and on . judgment is coming for america . you have rattled the heavens and heavens will ran down on your heads blood

  • Guest2020

    What cops shot first and asked questions later?

  • Troy

    Do you sell beer and wine at your station? Maybe that is what the problem is, not benches.

  • Denise Kuhn

    How can they be bad for business? Is the store owner saying customers are afraid on people hanging out at the benches? I wonder if he made the calls!

  • Tora

    Obviously, the people who have commented here do not live near the area. The benches should be removed. The only place left for them to congregate would be on the side of the gas station which will make it easier to charge them for loitering. When cars enter the downtown area the congregation of homeless people at the 3rd street light is one of the first things that they see. The benches should be removed at least for a trial period to see if things get better. I see these people every day they are mostly drunk and disgusting. I’ve even looked out off of my 3rd floor porch and seen a homeless couple having intercourse right there on the bench in the evening. Ive also witnessed them stealing bicycles from across the street.


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