Joined by NYPD officers from the 103rd Precinct, elected officials and members of the Jamaica business community, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced the creation of the “Jamaica Merchants Trespass Notice” — a new initiative that would issue a trespass notice to individuals who engage in disorderly or illegal activities in or outside shops and stores in Jamaica.
The program was created in partnership with the DA’s office, the NYPD and the business community because local businesses regularly grapple with individuals who use their stores and restaurants for illegal drug activities and other troublesome conduct, putting business owners, employees and customers in harm’s way, Katz explained.
Katz said that the program’s primary goal was to deter further disruptive behavior and that it provided an alternative to putting more people through the criminal system.
Instead, when encountering individuals engaging in illegal or rowdy acts on their property, merchants can notify the 103rd Precinct. Its responding officers will serve the offenders with a copy of the trespass notice, informing them that a repeat offense can or will result in their arrest.
“What this really does, it’s a clear communication between the store and the person who is disrupting that store’s business,” Katz said. “And just so everybody is very clear about this, this distinguishes between unwanted and disruptive behavior and criminal acts such as stealing or assault. First, there is a warning. The warning is clear — coming back is not an option.”
The program also includes training police officers on what to do when faced with disruptive behavior in a store or restaurant, teaching officers to issue a trespass warning first, putting the violator on notice.
Katz said it was important the business community has the support it needs to make a strong comeback after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“And that means helping to ensure families feel safe when they go to the stores and when they decide to dine and shop here. We want people in the area to spend as much money as they possibly can on their local businesses and feel safe doing it,” Katz said.
Deputy Inspector Vincent Tavalaro, the commanding officer of the 103rd Precinct, reiterated that the program was not about making arrests but helping the community.
Tavalaro said that his precinct received overwhelming reports of loitering inside and outside stores and businesses as well as quality of life offenses from merchants, business owners and residents, and promised that “our solution is not just on paper.”
“It’s the outgrowth of all working together to forge a solution that we all understand,” Tavalaro said. “And that makes sense. It represents collective problem solving for the collective good.”
Tavalaro vowed that the NYPD was committed to playing a vital role in caring for people who live, work and shop in the Jamaica business district.
“Our mutual desire is for continued growth for the Jamaica community and to do so peacefully and safely,” Tavalaro said.
Councilwoman Adrienne Adams, who serves as the chair of the Committee on Public Safety, said instead of focusing on recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic, the community had to contend with a rise in illegal activities happening in and around storefronts in Jamaica.
Adams had a stern message for those who intend to jeopardize the safety of the community, stressing that “our public spaces and storefronts cannot and will not be used for illegal activity.”
She called the new initiative “an important start to making sure that our businesses, our workers and customers not only have peace, but that they have peace of mind.”
Adams assured that elected officials, the DA’s office, the NYPD, community leaders and merchants would work together to keep businesses safe so they can begin the post-COVID-19 recovery process and thrive.
Jennifer Furioli of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District was pleased that the DA’s office, the local precinct and elected officials listened to the concerns of the business community and implemented the program addressing disruptive and unproductive behavior.
“In the last year and a half, our merchants have dealt with a lot of upheavals due to the pandemic: significant loss of business, changing state and city regulations, ever-changing worker safety obligations, and more,” Furioli said. “The last thing our businesses need as they try to recover is the added stress of individuals who boldly set up shop inside our community’s stores and restaurants solely to conduct illegal activity, throw parties, harass and threaten workers and drive away customers.”
Furioli shared with QNS that last winter, the owner of Dunkin’ Donuts on Parsons Boulevard contacted her and shared a distressing encounter he had with some individuals who entered his store and threw a party, drinking beer and threatening his staff when they asked the group of young men to leave.
“We immediately notified the police. [The owner] notified the police. That was sort of the tipping point. I immediately started getting testimony from our business owners that this had elevated into a much bigger problem,” Furioli said.
She said in another instance, an employee at Popeyes was punched in the face by a person selling drugs inside the fast-food restaurant.
“That person felt so emboldened that they just punched an innocent worker in the face,” Furioli said. “It’s just completely unacceptable.”
Glenn Greenidge, executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard Business Improvement District, shared that business owners in his area face the same issues with individuals partying, drinking and smoking marijuana outside the stores, blocking the entrances and preventing customers from entering the establishments.
He feels that many are emboldened by New York state’s bail reform laws that took effect in 2020 and the recent legalization of recreational marijuana, which will go into effect in January 2022.
“They’re coming into the stores, they’re breaking up their products and packaging them inside the stores. And store owners try to kick them out, and they talk back at them,” Greenidge said.
He hopes the trespassing program will change the situation.
“Hopefully, with this trespassing affidavit, we’ll have a little bit more access to get them away from the area,” Greenidge said. “We have a little more teeth because that’s been part of it.”