Philadelphia Pushes Ban on Bulletproof Glass in Crime-Filled Areas, Angering Shopkeepers

Store owner April Kim makes a sale to an African-American customer from inside a protective glass cage at the store she owns in South Central Los Angeles Tuesday, April, 9, 2002. Relations between Korean-American store owners and their black and Hispanic customers have come a long way in the 10 …
AP Photo/ Damian Dovarganes

Philadelphia is mulling a ban on bulletproof glass in neighborhood stores, but many shopkeepers are not too thrilled about the idea.

The city council’s Public Health and Human Services Committee approved a bill Monday that would allow Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections to get rid of the bulletproof barriers that separate customers from cash registers in the city’s stores, often located in crime-ridden areas.

“No establishment required to obtain a Large Establishment license … shall erect or maintain a physical barrier that requires the persons serving the food either to open a window or other aperture or to pass the food through a window or other aperture, in order to hand the food to a customer inside the establishment,” the bill states.

Neighborhood store owners say they are outraged at the bill’s passage because they feel unfairly targeted and are concerned for their safety if they do not have a bullet-resistant border protecting them.

“If the glass comes down, the crime rate will rise and there will be lots of dead bodies,” Rich Kim, the owner of Broad Deli, told WTXF. “The most important thing is safety and the public’s safety.”

Kim said the glass protected his mother-in-law from being attacked by someone wielding a knife, and he is concerned that without it, he would be more vulnerable to attacks.

He added that ban would not be as much of an issue if he were confident the police would ensure his safety in the event of an attack.

Kim is not alone in his disdain for the bill. About 230 Asian beer deli owners who feel singled out by the proposal are also protesting the bill.

City Councilwoman Cindy Bass, the bill’s sponsor, argues that removing the glass would remove any “indignity” for shoppers.

“We want to make sure that there isn’t this sort of indignity, in my opinion, to serving food through a Plexiglas only in certain neighborhoods,” Councilwoman Bass said.

The bill is set for a full council vote December 14.