The registration of the security cameras in the warehouse of the Dominican Juan Valerio in the Bronx, is overloaded with very awkward scenes which are already common for most of these small merchants in the Big Apple: robberies, thefts and threats.
But last Friday, his business located on the corner of Washington Avenue and 171st Street in this county, the surveillance video around 3:30 am captured when the store was closed and a subject violently entered to carry several pounds of meat valued at $4,000.
“There isn’t a day that someone doesn’t break in to steal. They take things in your face, because they know that they are not going to be arrested for that. On every item we sell, what we earn is pennies. If we have to lose every day, when you reach the end of the month, it’s hundreds of dollars. But this time it was the end”, said the islander.
Faced with the unstoppable wave of reports of robberies in these vital businesses for the city of New York, the Union of Winemakers of America (UBA) created an almost emergency fund of $50,000 to compensate its members with “aid” of up to $500, then show how I collect the recordings on their security cameras.
This Wednesday, Juan was the first to receive this contribution, which he considers has a great symbolic value for a guild that tries to “get up”, but remains one of the clearest targets of a wave of crime that has no breaks.
“We are more than 800 members in this Union. And there is not one that does not have videos to show in the last days of a robbery. I insist, as small as it is, it affects us. We are family businesses that try to survive”, reinforced the Quisqueyan.
Pass three and four times
In most occasions, winemakers prefer to avoid confrontations so as not to end up injured. In other cases, they prefer to give everything “at a loss”, because since it is not a “big robbery”, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has little to do.
The UBA for almost two years has been claiming that the records of robberies and assaults continue their upward curve. And, worst of all, with the resignation of its members, who expect very little from justice.
“We created this aid fund, which we are aware is not much, but it is a way of acting in a situation that does not stop. for a winemaker a loss of $1,000 or $2,000 each month is too much money. If you take profit margins into account. Every day our members complain that even a person goes three or four times to steal in the same day”, explained Radhamés Rodríguez, president of the UBA.
The most common daily “movie” filmed by most winemakers is starring people of different ages, but mostly very young. Most hide products in their clothes, others take it aggressively and brag to the workers that they are stealing.
At the other extreme, the most violent scenes involve assaults, with or without weapons, to get products that are on the side of the counter, especially cigarette boxes.
At worst, they push for all the cash in the register. But as happened to the Dominican Juan Valerio, it also happens with increasing frequency, that they destroy doors and windows to carry out nightly looting.
The rising crime of small thefts of food, products for personal use, alcoholic beverages and medicines in general in these popular convenience stores, it soared last year by 32%, according to official figures, if they are contrasted with 2020. And this year this figure does not seem to flatten out.
In this wave of commercial “looting”, the controversial Bail Law, seems to carry a lot of weight. At least, that is the interpretation of the winemakers.
“Even if our small merchants call the police, they can arrest them, but it doesn’t go beyond that. They cannot be charged. And as we have been denouncing, this is what he has done is shoot vandalism. And our families of winemakers have a very hard time because of that,” Rodríguez remarked.
“If you want! Call the police!”
Another Harlem winemaker, who preferred to reserve his name assures that in his store located a few blocks from the 25th NYPD precinct, he already assumes that every day must “give away” cigarettes and beers to a group of delinquents of the neighborhood.
“We have reached the worst moment you can have, which is to assume that criminals are winning the battle against the authorities. They come and threaten you. And they take things away and tell you: Call the police, they’re close by!”
According to the complaints of some traders and the observation made by some experts, it is actually serial thieves, even if arrested, usually go free the same day by the criminal laws in effect in New York as of January 2020.
The threshold for the New York criminal justice system to consider a robbery a felony, which could end up directly in a one-year deprivation of liberty, depending on many circumstances, is when the person has seized products valued at $1,000 or more.
“It is not possible that some thieves can more than the City that is apparently one of the most powerful in the world. The uniforms may have the best intentions, but the laws do not help them”, stressed the winemaker who calculates a loss of at least between $1,500 and $1,800 per month in robberies in recent months.
“Theft is vice”
Also, the spokesman for the Union of Winemakers of America (UBA), Fernando Mateo, considers that pickpockets and thieves they are “destroying” the peace and the social fabric of the city.
“These crimes must be punished. We cannot afford for these criminals to continue to run wild without punishment. District Attorneys and Judges Must Prosecute and Convict These Repeat Offenders to at least 6 months in prison.” Matthew claimed.
The union leader reports that many times the winemakers “raise their hands” to defend themselves and they are the ones who end up behind bars.
Overall, of the estimated 8,000 winemakers in the five boroughs, there are few who don’t have to recount uncomfortable incidents every day.
In this sense, Francis Mars, President of the Association of Wineries and Small Businesses of New York (BSBG), has worse balances: “Very little progress has been made in terms of security. I can assure you that at the end of this year, the only thing that has advanced is the robberies”.
Marte points out that no matter how efficient the response and police patrols are, it has already been demonstrated that the “system” has allowed offenders feel very “comfortable” doing harmwho go out to work every day.
“As a union we are struck by the silence of many elected leaders of this City, with the issue of these thieves, who mostly do not steal out of hunger, but to maintain their vices, because they go out to resell the products”, he concluded.
For this reason, in the coming weeks this guild will launch another initiative to exhort and recommend to the neighbors that do not buy a certain category of commodities from resellers street, because they are part of the circle that encourages criminals.
During the first eight months of the COVID-19 crisis, there was a 63% increase in shooting incidents inside or in front of these stores and a 222% increase in thefts.
When there is only one quarter left to say goodbye to 2022, ABA and BSBG spokespersons they do not doubt that these figures from the previous year have doubled.
“Now that winter is coming, it’s worse. Because they enter with their coats where everything fits. Sadly many of our winemakers now have bats and knives to protect themselves from attack. But it’s horrible that we have to live in this savagery,” counted to The newspaper another dealer in Borought Park in Brooklyn.
In New York City, based on official accounts, last August crimes against property increased by 26% when compared to the same time period in 2021, while shootings and murders continue their descending rhythm.
“What happens to the winemakers is not in any statistics, because the majority do not even complain, because they know it will be a waste of time.” Mars concluded.
Mayor Eric Adams since taking over the municipal government, like the winemakers, continues to associate the rising trend of robberies in the Big Apple, with the reform of the Bail Law. Despite his attempts to advance some changes in the amended legislation in 2020, he has encountered strong resistance in the State Assembly.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.