FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 30, 2004

Schumer Unveils New Program To Protect New York City Bodegas

Standing with owner of Washington Heights bodega that was robbed last year, Schumer previews new pilot program "Operation Safe Store" to give 300 most vulnerable bodegas in NYC hidden cameras, better alarms to deter robbers

New analysis based on NYPD data shows NYC bodegas in dire need of defense against high rates of theft and violence

Schumer secured $400,000 for project in 2005 budget passed last week

Standing with the owner of a Washington Heights bodega that was robbed at gunpoint last December, US Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced a new program called “Operation Safe Store” that will install cameras and other theft deterrence technology in 300 of the most vulnerable bodegas in New York City.

New data from the New York City-based Bodega Association of the United States shows New York City bodegas are in dire need of defenses against alarmingly high rates of theft and violence. Schumer got $400,000 in federal funds included in the massive 2005 budget that passed the Senate last week for “Operation Safe Store,”and all of these funds are earmarked for New York City.

"Few things are more uniquely New York than getting just what you need just when you need it at a bodega,” Schumer said. “But building a family business in what for so many owners is a new city or new country shouldn’t have to mean putting their life on the line. Everyone knows we need to do a lot more to keep bodega owners, customers and workers safe. These funds are a huge down payment to combat the robberies and crimes that sadly have become all too common."

There are over 14,000 bodegas selling food and other daily needs in all five boroughs. Because bodegas are often located in high crime neighborhoods and because they typically stay open all day and night, they are often the target of robberies and other crimes. Research by the Bodega Association shows that approximately 3,000 of these bodegas experience alarmingly high risks of threats and violence, which then put owners, employees, and neighbors at risk. One third of these bodegas – or approximately 1,000 – are in need of immediate help.

The NYPD has analyzed robberies of bodegas and other food related businesses over the eight month period from July 2003 through February 2004 and found that during this period, 27 police precincts (one third of the total) accounted for two thirds (66%) of the total robberies. It is the bodegas in these areas that will get help from the funds Schumer announced today.

The funds Schumer secured will enable the Bodega Association to install security cameras at burglar alarms that include locator devices that help the police pinpoint the sites of break-ins and robberies at 300 of the stores that are most at risk. Through “Operation Safe Store,” the Bodega Association will be able to equip bodegas with close circuit TV cameras so employees behind the counter can see what is happening throughout the store and, where appropriate, outside; video recorders; and silent hold-up alarms that are monitored to contact the NYPD’s 911 emergency call system. The entire system is easy to install and maintain and costs approximately $1,000 per unit with installation.

Stores that the Bodega Association has equipped with similar devices since June 2003 have not experienced any new robberies. Schumer spoke today at the Natalia Grocery on St. Nicholas Avenue at 193rd Street in the Washington Heights section of northern Manhattan. In December 2003, this store was robbed at gunpoint by two men who were never apprehended, even after the FBI joined the case.

Schumer was joined today by Salvador Malagon (former owner of Natalia Grocery and one of the people robbed), Ramon Murphy (new owner of Natalia Grocery) and Jose Fernandez (President of the Bodega Association) who demonstrated the need for new security systems and received a symbolic federal check from Senator Schumer. The Bodega Association has over 7,000 stores throughout the state in its organization, with the highest concentration of members in New York City. The association works with the NYPD and City Council to ensure that bodegas have appropriate means and devices to secure their location.

The Bodega Association, founded in 1996, is a local development corporation that seeks to partner the interests of independent inner city entrepreneurs, government and the non-profit sector in a partnership to promote job creation and long-term, sustainable economic and capital growth in New York. The association attempts to address the most vulnerable business sectors of the inner city marketplace, with its current constituency rooted in the city's retail food industry.

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