Merchants, Police Talk Safety At Meeting
An armed robbery at a Mott Avenue jeweler last month was the last straw for a street that is also home to daily heroine and illegal cigarette sales. Last week Councilman James Sanders Jr. and the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation hosted a meeting with local merchants to address safety issues in the downtown Far Rockaway business district.
“One of the basic issues we’re having is safety for our residents and businessmen, as well,” said Kevin Alexander, the executive director of RDRC, during the December 16 meeting.
While the meeting room at RDRC was less than half-filled, there were representatives from several businesses, including non-for-profits, who spoke about their concerns including the illegal activity on Mott Avenue.
“I wish you could tell us what can be done,” said LaVida Jervis, the owner of LaVida’s Bridal Galleria and the president of the Rockaway East Merchant’s Association.
“This is our livihood, this is our future. Somebody needs to tell us what we can do to make life better for us,” said Jervis. “They’re doing more business than we’re doing.”
Dorothy Worrell, the executive director for Harlem Dowling West Side Center came to address the problems their Far Rockaway Children and Family Services Center faces.
“We’re really impacted by what’s going on in the community with the gang activity,” said Worrell, who added that her workers must visit NYCHA housing developments regularly. “We’re open about what to what do to make our staff feel safer, especially in housing [complexes].”
Tony Berkel, RDRCs Business Services Advisor, told the commander of the 101 Precinct, Deputy Inspector Brian McMahon that merchants have told him, “the reason they close early is they don’t feel safe.”
Linda Plummer representing the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce said, “From what I can see [on Mott Avenue] the community that’s standing out there, they’re very bold … and they give the impression I can get away with it. I’m going to keep doing.”
Officer Cheryl Mottershead, from the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau told the merchants that education is the key. She said storeowners and their employees must pay attention to who comes into their stores.
“We can also come give lectures and teach your employees,” Mottershead added.
Both McMahon and Mottershead suggested Rockaway businesses should have a security survey done of their establishment.
“Officer [John] Chavatte [the crime prevention officer] of the 101 can come out to your business, look around, look at your lot, look at your doors, your windows, gates. There’s lots of new technology out there, and it is free.”
McMahon added, “Each business is different, has a different problem, different people hanging out in there and they have different vulnerabilities.”
While police are working on the illegal activities, McMahon said such investigations take time.
“We’re working on it. We are making a lot of arrests,” said McMahon. “It’s revolving door. The amount of business makes it profitable to return.”
The deputy inspector said, “As merchants and partners you have to help us a lot more than in the past.”
There are 75 precincts vying for the same resources and video surveillance already is at a minimum in the Far Rockaway business district. Because of this, the local precinct is asking that storeowners become another set of eyes for them. “We need you to work more with us [concerning] any problems you may have, people hanging out and drug use, anything like that,” continued McMahon.
McMahon also suggested that the precinct could give escorts to Harlem Dowling workers visiting public housing. In addition, any storeowner who would like police officers to stop in their stores throughout the week can request a community visit from the precinct. Representing Sanders, who was unable to attend the meeting, was his district manager Blake Hyatt and community liaison Cecil Lloyd-Bay.
Officer Chavatte can be reached at 718-868-3426. People can contact community affairs officers at the 101 Precinct by calling 718-868-3441. Officer Cheryl Mottershead’s number is 212-614-6741.