By Alicia Venter
A new program designed to enhance safety around shops, the Astoria Merchants Business Improvement Program, was launched on Tuesday by the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the NYPD.
The program focuses on the small group of individuals who are responsible for the majority of harm done to local businesses, with behavior including shoplifting, harassing and threatening customers and store staff.
Businesses who are part of the program can contact the local precinct when an individual is disrupting business, and the responding officers can issue a trespass notice and warn said individual that if they return to the business, they could be arrested.
Since it launched in Jamaica two years ago, 23 notices have been issued; three arrests have been made, according to the Queens District Attorney’s Office.
There is also a business improvement program in Flushing.
“We need to address the few responsible for the vast majority of the shoplifting and vandalism and for it to stop,” said Melinda Katz, Queens District Attorney, in a statement. “Our goal is to protect local businesses, many of them mom-and-pop shops, and the customers and communities depending on them. We should never lose sight of the fact that communities thrive when local businesses thrive.”
Merchants can enroll in the program through the 114th Precinct.
In Jamaica, there are 25 stores part of the program.
“This a great tool for our small businesses who are many times alone in their establishment and fearful of individuals who habitually enter with the sole purpose of causing harm or chaos,” Marie Torniali, Executive Director of the Steinway Astoria Partnership, said in a statement. “This is not about instant arrest; it is a warning to those individuals not to return. Our merchants will be able to breathe a sigh of relief and continue running their business and assist customers without apprehension.”