A group of Bronx merchants were so fed up with rampant crime in New York City that they took matters into their own hands, hiring private security to maintain order in a busy business district.
The five person ‘Ambassadors Programme’ is run by the Fordham Road Business Improvement District on Wednesdays to Saturdays between 2pm and 6pm
The unarmed ambassadors’ job is to patrol the borough’s busiest shopping district along Fordham Road from Jerome Avenue to Washington Avenue.
They will meet and greet dealers and customers to deter thieves, but also serve as extra eyes throughout the Fordham area to report suspicious, unsafe activity or criminal activity, according to the Fordham BID.
Oswald Feliz, the Bronx councillor, who represents the Fordham Road shopping corridor, said more needs to be done to crack down on serial bandits who are “damaging local businesses and local jobs”.
But he hopes this will be a start.
“A few months ago, American Eagle left Fordham Road because of a steady stream of theft — more than 20 in one day,” Feliz told the Post.
“No company can survive like this. And we worry that this could have a knock-on effect on other companies that are also facing similar challenges. I’ve spoken to employees who have been threatened with pepper spray and more and they are quitting. Nobody can work under these circumstances.”
He added, “I’m still learning about the program, but I hope it helps.”
“Our businesses are the cornerstones of our trade corridors and neighborhoods that support local jobs, deliver local goods and generate billions in economic development,” said Wilma Alonso, President and CEO of Fordham Road BID.
“And to ensure our businesses thrive and thrive, we must ensure we listen to their concerns, which includes an emphasis on public safety. We hope this new program can serve as a model for other business corridors across the city to expand and create additional resources for those who work, shop and live in our communities.”
Politicians like Mayor Eric Adams — and even civil rights activists like the Rev. Al Sharpton — are demanding that state legislatures pass legislation to stop professional thieves damaging businesses and forcing retailers to keep products under lock and key.
Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wants to streamline the cashless bail law to give judges more discretion to hold dangerous criminals with long criminal records pending trial, but so far hasn’t been able to bring about major changes.
The Post previously reported illegal vendors and gamblers taking over parts of the Fordham Road business district thanks to a new city law that shifted enforcement responsibility from the NYPD to the Department of Consumer Affairs, which doesn’t have the power to confiscate goods — or even an ID card demand from street vendors.
Fordham Road BID officials stressed the ambassadors would support, not replace, the local police force, and Councilor Feliz said he wants to increase spending for the NYPD to use more police officers.
The patrol ambassadors earn $18 an hour.
A spokesman for Fordham Road BID said it funds the safety initiatives through its appraisal, which trade members are saddled with, although it also receives discretionary grants from City Council through Feliz.
The group of companies is seeking a more permanent source of funding to continue the ambassador program beyond February.
Business owners, meanwhile, welcomed the security forces with open arms.
“The Patrol Ambassador program is great. It is helpful for the corporations to have a different security presence than the NYPD. There are also incidents on the road and the ambassadors are a useful deterrent,” said Daniel Quinones, manager of Jimmy Jazz at Fordham Road.
Dealers said theft isn’t the only concern though – violent crime is a big concern.
Earlier this month, a woman eight months pregnant was hit in the leg by a stray bullet while walking on the Grand Concourse, near East 192nd Street at Fordham Manor.
The Post also recently reported that grocers in other parts of the Bronx are cracking down on serial thieves by threading steel chains through the handles of detergent bottles and securing them with padlocks – a new low in the Big Apple’s shoplifting scourge.
The lock-and-chain strategy was developed by United Bodegas of America as theft increased, explained Fernando Mateo, the organization’s president.
“The justice system is just not cooperating and it gets to a point where you either have to padlock every item that needs to be stolen or fight back,” Mateo told The Post earlier this week.
“And if you fight back, you risk going to jail for protecting your property.”
Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels volunteer patrols that began in the 1970s, called the Fordham Road private security patrol nothing but a “patchwork quilt”.
“This patrol will not work. You can’t touch anyone. You need to call 911. Everything goes back to the police. They need more police.”
Meanwhile, Francisco Marte, head of the Bodega and Small Business Association, said: “Private patrols are not enough. There’s only so much we can do. What we need is more police. We have no consequences for criminals. We need to prosecute criminals, process them and not give them desk tickets.”
https://nypost.com/2023/01/24/bronx-merchants-set-up-private-patrols-to-combat-crime/ Bronx merchants set up private patrols to fight crime