Fordham Road is the Bronx’s busiest shopping district, house to greater than 300 shops and distributors, and sometimes overflowing with foot visitors and numerous meals stands and facet hustles. However staying on the Fordham Road has turn out to be a dangerous funding for some enterprise house owners of longtime institutions and massive field retailers who’ve cited an increase in retail theft and public security incidents over the previous yr.
“Every minute someone is trying to take something. Somebody gets arrested and a couple hours later, they’re back on the street,” mentioned Frank Bagatta, proprietor of North Finish Wine & Liquors on Webster Avenue, who mentioned he will get hit about 3-4 occasions every week with thefts.
“We fear for our lives everyday. We go to work and don’t know if we’re going to come back home,” Bagatta added.
In 2021, Fordham Road’s Enterprise Enchancment District (BID) solicited distributors, retailers and stakeholders of the heavily-trafficked industrial hall on their largest wants.
Not surprisingly, public security was the high precedence.
Fordham Road is house to large model identify shops like Greatest Purchase, a newly opened Goal and TJ Maxx. Nonetheless, a couple of representatives from these retailers instructed to the Bronx Times final yr that with out elevated security in the space, continued operations on Fordham Road may lead to large losses in merchandise and income.
In response, the Fordham Road BID has put in 5 patrol ambassadors — every licensed New York state security guards — to patrol and have interaction the neighborhood throughout peak shopping occasions Wednesdays by means of Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The program, which formally started on Jan. 12, assigns a patrol ambassador to a neighborhood district alongside Fordham Road from Jerome to Washington avenues, and their features are extra supplementary to NYPD patrolling, appearing as a liaison or a buffer between enterprise house owners, distributors, consumers and the police.
“We want to be a friendly face. A face that people can talk to, ask directions for, and ultimately feel a comfort and safety,” mentioned patrol ambassador Rahiem Clark. “But we also have pride in this area. I’m sure we all have some great memories of shopping on Fordham Road, so if I can do my part to make that experience better for all involved, I’m here to do it.”
Crime isn’t the solely factor patrol ambassadors are looking for. Improper disposal of trash and damaged down packing containers on avenue corners, a misplaced vacationer wandering on Valentine Avenue and pedestrian head counts are additionally part of the group’s duties.
Albert Dalipi, director of communications and outreach for the Fordham Road BID, hopes the program is usually a everlasting fixture for the shopping district. Dalipi mentioned that rising communication between space companies can also be in the works, with the perception that strings of larcenies are related to organized crime in the space.
“We want to create a network of communication between the stores, especially if they have had numerous incidents or if they are stores selling similar goods,” mentioned Dalipi. “There is a component of organized crime here, and the more we can build communication among our patrol ambassadors and stores, it can help us drive down the volume of theft.”
The program, if made everlasting and likewise expanded, may include native workforce advantages. 4 of the 5 patrol ambassadors have been beforehand out of labor earlier than the program kicked off, with patrol ambassadors making $18 an hour.
And small anecdotes of success for the pilot program — which is funded by the BID and solely runs by means of the finish February — are already being seen, in accordance to Clark, one in every of the patrol ambassadors.
“Not everything has to be done by force, you know? Not everything has to be done by violence,” mentioned Dalipi. “You know, things can be done in a different way, and I think that that’s what we’re training them to do.”
On his first day, Clark noticed a well-recognized Fordham Road facet hustle three-card monte, the place a pedestrian had been scammed of her cash. Hours later, Clark was noticed close to the hustler, who then fled the space.
Deterrence, greater than something, is a serious purpose of the patrol ambassadors.
“If we can get someone to think twice before they think about robbing a store, or if our presence can provide a barrier before any bad happens, I think that alone means this is working,” mentioned Clark.
The neighborhoods of Fordham and College Heights dwell in poverty —and companies have instructed the Bronx Times that theft and excessive rents make life on Fordham Road a problem for the industrial district’s smaller companies. Fordham’s attire and digital shops have bore the brunt of shoplifting and theft, with many retailer house owners and managers feeling under-resourced to fight such exercise.
“We try to stop them, but sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we call the cops and they ask for any security camera footage,” mentioned Patricio Perez, supervisor at attire retailer VIM positioned at 324 E. Fordham Road. “We can’t stop them. We just try to get the merchandise back.”
Final week, a coalition of NYC-based grocery retailer operators petitioned state and metropolis leaders to crack down on shoplifting, and push for extra punitive measures equivalent to permitting prosecutors to mix fees to elevate petit larceny to grand larceny.
Fordham Road residents and enterprise house owners have additionally been busy attempting to chase away Mayor Eric Adams’ plan to convert segments of Fordham Road to bus and delivery-only lanes — a transfer that space electeds have mentioned would influence small companies not solely on Fordham Road but in addition Arthur Avenue.
— ET Rodriguez contributed to this report
Attain Robbie Sequeira at [email protected] or (718) 260-4599. For extra protection, observe us on Twitter, Fb and Instagram @bronxtimes.