JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is asking for help identifying the woman responsible for trashing a gas station after getting busted by the station attendant trying to steal candy bars.
The unknown woman entered the Shell gas station at 715 North Main Street on March 3 and placed several candy bars totaling $11 in her pockets trying to hide them. A store employee confronted the woman, but she refused to return the candy bars and tried to leave the gas station.
The employee locked the front door, preventing the woman from leaving. Visibly annoyed, the woman began slinging around bags of chips and other snacks inside the store. The employee eventually unlocked the door and the woman ran off, police said.
Manan Patel, the owner of the Shell station, told News4Jax Tuesday that the woman damaged about $3,000 in merchandise.
"It took us nine hours, three people, 27 labor hours to clean this so a customer could walk in," Patel said.
Patel said the Sheriff's Office came to him three years ago, asking him to sign a document that would allow police the right to trespass people without his permission. He signed it, but he said things haven't gotten any better and he's concerned.
"It feels like a war zone in here sometimes. Even the smallest thing, a polite request, 'can you please move out of here? Can you please not bother this customer?' turns into a heated argument. We don't know when our lives are in danger," Patel said. "Downtown (is) supposed to be one of the safest places, not one of the scariest. This is my business, my income, so I'm not going to move out of here. But it's getting frustrating."
Patel said he's invested in a security system worth a few thousand dollars. He also instructs his employees to lock themselves behind the glass at night.
"People trying to steal, that's not new. People out here panhandling, bother customers," Patel said. "Theft has become part of our business margin, if you will. If I can get away with just $100 worth of stealing in a day, I call that a lucky day."
The owner said he's at his wits end after numerous incidents at his business. He said he fights every day to keep the place clean and safe, but he can't see, to get a handle on the problem.
"This guy, he unplugged my ice machine, caused about 200 ice bags to melt. He plugged his scooter to charge," Patel said.
When he asked the man to remove it, he refused, telling him he paid someone a dollar to get it up there and was out of money, according to Patel. Then there's people who sleep at the gas station, leave their dentures on the counter, rip the bathroom sink off the wall, leave bullets lying around, Patel said.
Patel said he just wants his loyal customers to know that he's trying his very best to make things good.
Anyone with any information leading to the identity of the woman is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or email JSOCrimeTips@jaxsheriff.org. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.