RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — In emergencies, calling 9-1-1 is typically the first course of action used to get help, when people are in danger or are threatened.
But Raleigh business owners said they’re now taking matters into their own hands because they’re not getting the help they would like to see.
“My staff has been spit on. My staff has been thrown up against glass windows. My staff has been sexually groped. My staff has been threatened with bricks,” said Kim Hammer, the owner of Bittersweet and Johnston Yacht Club.
On Tuesday, several downtown business owners told city council members, they feel unprotected, even when they ask for help.
“It just doesn’t seem like we’re a priority,” said Heather Pavlina, the manager at St. Roch Oyster Bar.
“We called the police. They did not come. They did not come. We got a phone call from them 45 minutes later asking if [an] individual was still on our property needing to be dealt with,” added Hammer.
Not even 24 hours after the city council meeting, CBS 17 crews saw a private security team outside of Bittersweet, and other local businesses.
“We are at the point that we now have to hire private security,” Hammer had told city leaders.
It’s something more and more owners and managers are having to pay for themselves, to keep their employees and customers safe.
“It’s not being handled by police officers when I’m regularly getting told that they have two-hour wait times where no one ever shows up,” said Hammer.
“We police the restaurant. We stand outside and make sure we walk our guests outside to make sure they’re getting to their cars,” said Pavlina.
On Tuesday, Police Chief Estella Patterson was asked about the response times and delays.
She told reporters: “When our staffing is low, it might take a little bit longer. Also, the priority of the caller, if it is a high priority, of course, we are finding more coming quickly to those kinds of calls. You know, our city is growing. We are seeing our population at almost half a million now. With that growth comes some growing pains,” said Patterson.
Officers have ramped up their patrols in problem areas, especially over the last two weeks.
Business owners and leaders said it has made a huge difference, but it’s not enough to keep downtown safe and thriving.
“It’s the face of the city. That’s where, you know, residents bring their family and they come downtown to go shopping and eat and go to museums. So downtown matters to the entire city,” said Bill King, President and CEO of the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.
Currently, the Raleigh Police Department has 91 officer vacancies.
CBS 17 crews have reached out to them again to ask if they’re looking into the incidents and delayed response times.