Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bodega Backlash

In a feature story in today's El Diario the paper discusses the latest rash of bodega killings and the failure of the NYPD to fully implement the "Tienda Segura" program that the agency had piloted in 2003. The story followed a press conference that was conducted by Jose Fernandez and the Bodega Association. Fernandez blamed the mayor specifically for the city's failure: "Estamos culpando al alcalde por esta muerta y por el resto de las muertas de los bodegueros..."

The pilot program, which was also supported by a City Council initiative of Joel Rivera that year, was deemed to be an unqualified success by the NYPD but there was no effort on the city's part to expand the worthwhile program. In today's Hoy, given the recent murders, Fernandez calls on the mayor to expand the pilot.

In 2003 the Alliance had worked with the Bodega Association to pressure a reluctant Ray Kelly to support the safe store program. When Kelly first expressed his reluctance, citing the city's fiscal difficulties, we told the commissioner that given the city's confiscatory cigarette tax of that year ( a tax that costs city stores $250 million a year), it was unconscionable for the NYPD to play scrooge with the lives of bodegueros. As we said to Kelly: "At least in the old days when the gangs grabbed money from frightened store owners it was seen as for protection. Now the city wants to take the bodega's money and not give the stores the protection they deserve." Two days later the pilot program was announced.