Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bodega Roberries Redux

In a pattern that is a repeat of the spate of bodegas robberies and murders four years ago, the Bronx is experienced a new crime wave directed at the boroughs most vulnerable retailers. As the NY Daily News reported last week, "Bronx detectives are hoping that the public-and a fat reward-will help them collar a team of bodega bandits that have been grabbing cash and lottery tickets from terrorized store owners up and down the borough."

This renewed violence has led the Bodega Association to call a news conference tomorrow in front of a local Bronx bodega at 2460 Holland Avenue at 1:00 PM. The press conference will be joined by local council member James Vacca who has represented Bronx neighborhood for over twenty five years, first as District Manager of CB# 10, and now as the local councilman. The councilman has always been a staunch proponent of public safety and his presence is welcome.

What is also distressing in all of this is that it appears that the robbers are taking care to target the most vulnerable stores, those without surveillance cameras. This is particularly unfortunate because in 2002, on the heels of a bodega crime wave, the NYPD had launched "Operation Safe Store"-(Tienda Segura). This pilot program was experimenting with the installation of security cameras at selected stores all over the city. The police department investment was more than matched by a grant from the City Council and over fifty stores were equipped.

The results of the pilot were positive but the NYPD never followed up with any expansion of the program and because of that the council initiative was also allowed to lapse. So now we are faced with another crisis, and one that might have been avoided if the NYPD had followed up on the success of their own pilot program.

We should also never forget that the city's confiscatory cigarette tax, a hike 0f over 1800%, led to a decline in sales at local bodegas and other outlets that exceeded $250 million a year! It would be fair if the city that can so easily harm the profitability of local stores (the mayor called it a "minor economic issue," but we would call it legalized theft) could also find a way to protect beleaguered store owners for the illegal predators.