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Safety Program Will Link 10 Bodegas To 911


June 26, 2003
Copyright © 2003 THE NEW YORK TIMES. All rights reserved. 

In an effort to protect bodegas from robberies, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly announced a pilot program yesterday that will equip 10 stores in the most frequently victimized neighborhoods with video cameras and panic buttons linked to the city's 911 emergency system.

Standing outside the Family Grocery, a bodega in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx, the two men, along with the head of a store owners' group, described the new plan, which they said would use inexpensive technology to add a layer of protection for store owners and workers.

Mr. Bloomberg, who spoke briefly in Spanish, said the program grew out of meetings between Mr. Kelly and Jose Fernandez, the head of the store owners' group, the Bodega Association of the United States.

"Each person in this city deserves the opportunity to live and support their families without fear," Mr. Bloomberg said. "We're going to do everything we can to combat robberies committed against bodegas and ensure that New York City's bodega owners can see their business flourish."

The initiative appeared to be directed at the largely Hispanic communities where the stores are popular. It comes just two weeks after Mr. Bloomberg was booed at the Puerto Rican Day Parade and a day after he announced plans to strengthen bilingual education in city schools, reversing his position on how children who do not speak English should be taught.

Further, a New York Times poll earlier this month found that 73 percent of Hispanic respondents disapproved of the way the mayor was doing his job, compared with 58 percent of whites.

A Police Department analysis, Mr. Kelly said, determined that 33.4 percent of all the bodega robberies and 45 percent of the gunpoint bodega robberies in the city were committed in just 10 precincts – one each in Manhattan and the Bronx, three in Queens and five in Brooklyn. The emphasis is on Brooklyn because since January 2002, a police official said, 315 of the 792 bodega robberies have taken place in the borough, as have 5 of the 13 homicides committed during bodega robberies.

So the police, Mr. Bloomberg said, are surveying the stores in those precincts to determine which to equip with the cameras, recorders and alarms. The initiative follows Mr. Fernandez's statements about what he has called a wave of bodega crimes, but Mr. Bloomberg, noting that crime is down citywide, played down that suggestion.

The equipment for the 10 bodegas will cost about $1,000 for each store and be installed by police technicians, Mr. Kelly said. The officials said they hoped to expand the program, using money from a foundation dedicated to bodega safety and financed by suppliers for the stores.

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