As DA Katz meets with mayor to combat retail theft in Queens, challenger tours Flushing businesses impacted by spike in crime

retail theft
Retired Judge George Grasso toured the retail shops of Downtown Flushing to find out how people are coping with a crime spike in the 109th Precinct as he begins his campaign for Queens district attorney. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz attended a summit meeting hosted by Mayor Eric Adams at Gracie Mansion on Friday, Dec. 16, to create a citywide strategic prevention plan to combat retail theft across the five boroughs. The two-hour-long brainstorming session between law enforcement and business leaders discussed policy ideas and creative solutions to tackle the increase in retail theft, which will be released in a report next year.

Mayor Adams addresses law enforcement and business leaders during his retail crime summit at Gracie Mansion. (Courtesy of mayor’s office)

“Retail crime is not only illegal, but it creates a lasting economic impact through increased prices for consumers and fewer jobs for our local workforce,” Katz said. “I look forward to expanding upon our ongoing efforts with meaningful solutions alongside our agency and law enforcement partners to address this growing problem.”

Coincidentally, retired judge George Grasso, who announced in October that he would challenge Katz in next year’s Democratic primary, took a walking tour of downtown Flushing days earlier, where he discussed the impact of retail crime with the people who have to deal with it on a daily basis.

“I can’t say I heard anything that particularly surprised me but I thought it made sense to lean into these issues with the folks that are dealing with it,” Grasso said. “Especially since the 109th Precinct in Flushing in many respects is leading the way in the current crime increases in Queens.”

Grasso made a stop at the Nike Clearance Store in the Skyview Mall in College Point Boulevard where he spoke with a security guard named Fred who has dealt with brazen shoplifters nearly every day since he started working there five months ago.

“He said they’ve been stealing clothes and sneakers since he started,” Grasso said. “He sees many of the same young people come in and grab the merchandise and then challenge him saying, ‘You can’t do anything to stop me,’ making a mockery of the rule of law, basically.”

Grasso spoke with Monica Ortiz, who manages the CNG Live Well Shop, and described how thieves constantly steal the most expensive vitamins in the store. She said she had spoken with the police and shown them surveillance footage and nothing happened. She added that the entire neighborhood doesn’t feel safe.

“She told me how she was standing in her bank recently and as she was withdrawing her cash, people actually standing behind her began asking for her money in broad daylight in the middle of the workday,” Grasso said.

He stopped by Flushing Optical in Main Street where the manager told of two recent “customers” who tried on expensive sunglasses and suddenly ran out of the store with them.

“What we are hearing is that Flushing is almost like ground zero where people have a sense of entitlement to just repeatedly violate the law,” Grasso said. “You go into the CVS and the ice cream is locked up, the toothpaste is locked up. In the conversations I had, the folks weren’t aware of who the district attorney is let alone know what she’s doing about the spike in crime.”

The crime spike in the 109th Precinct is on the radar at One Police Plaza.

On Dec. 13, NYPD Chief of Department Jeffrey Maddrey and police brass met with business owners and they discussed safety concerns alongside the Commissioner for the NYC Department of Small Business Services Kevin Kim and elected officials.

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.