After two Wawa convenience stores in Philadelphia have closed within the past month due to security issues, some Penn students say they are concerned about safety in Philadelphia retail spaces.
In October, Wawa announced that it will shut down two of its stores in Center City — one on 12th and Market streets and the other on 19th and Market streets — citing safety concerns. University City Wawa employees were pepper-sprayed and about 100 juveniles vandalized a Wawa store in Northeast Philadelphia last month. In light of these incidents, some Penn students reported feeling less safe at retail locations, citing instances of crime and an increase in campus public safety alerts.
Wawa’s corporate headquarters did not respond to a request for comment. Vice President of the Division of Public Safety Kathleen Shields Anderson told The Daily Pennsylvanian that DPS has proactively reached out to Wawa regarding these recent events, and that the company has plans to ensure “extra securities” in all three locations in the University City area.
“[Wawa has] been in University City for a long time, and by working with them, I know they have a priority to maintain the safety of their customers and staff,” Shields Anderson said.
DPS sent out a safety advisory email on Oct. 19, informing the Penn community about a pattern of robberies between Market and Chestnut streets in University City. The Plaza Art store, located close to campus, now only accepts payment by card after it was robbed twice, according to ABC6. Shields Anderson told the DP that Penn, Drexel University, and Philadelphia police were working together to investigate the situation.
Some Penn students have personally experienced instances of crime or violence at Wawa and said that following those incidents, they felt less safe frequenting retail stores, particularly after midnight.
“Last week, I was in Wawa around 3 a.m. when someone entered and began yelling at four undergraduate students while brandishing a gun. The cops had to come,” Wharton junior Bryan Yan said.
Wharton sophomore Riya Khosla shared Yan’s sentiment, adding that UPennAlert notifications contributed to student worries. These alerts are emailed and texted to the University community about situations that involve “an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or employees occurring on campus,” according DPS’s website.
Class Board 2025 President and College sophomore Will Krasnow said that while he has not had any negative experiences at Wawa himself, he is aware that “some students [feel unsafe] and definitely consider it an issue.”
UPennAlerts regarding robberies have risen in the past few years, with 12 UPennAlerts issued for robberies issued in both 2020 and 2021, and eight in 2019. In 2021, the number of UPennAlerts issued by DPS increased to 67 from the previous year’s 58. Shields Anderson previously told the DP that the increase was not due to a conscious effort to send more alerts.
Since the start of the 2022-23 academic year, there have been 13 UPennAlerts, 11 of which were related to robberies, burglaries, or thefts.
Shields Anderson offered advice to students feeling unsafe around campus. She said that students should utilize the free resources DPS provides, such as the walking escorts and Penn Transit.
“Take a walking escort, use Penn Transit, ride SEPTA. Make use of these free resources and do what makes you feel safe,” she said.