Apr. 26, 2023 By Ethan Marshall
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz and the NYPD on Wednesday, April 26, announced the launch of the Flushing Merchants Business Improvement Program to help aid local merchants in preventing disruptive and unwanted activity within their businesses.
Katz was joined by NYPD officials, members of the Flushing business community and elected officials in making the announcement outside the Queens Public Library at Flushing.
The program’s purpose is to enhance the safety for retailers and shoppers alike by discouraging any unwanted activity in and around the stores. The launch of the initiative in Flushing comes after the Jamaica Business Improvement Program, launched in 2021, proved to be very successful.
“We will put individuals on notice through this program that disruptive and illegal behavior will not be tolerated as merchants try to make a living and residents seek to shop or dine without fear or harassment,” Katz said. “This initiative will serve as a deterrent to those who have caused harm, warning them that their presence in particular shops is unwanted, unwelcome and illegal. Flushing business owners, having seen the success we achieved in Jamaica through this unique initiative, asked to become part of it and we listened.”
The merchants who enroll in the Flushing program can reach out to the 109th Precinct whenever they see a person committing a crime or causing a disruption at their businesses. The officers will issue trespass notices to these individuals. If these people do not leave the businesses or ending up returning to cause problems, police can then arrest them.
“This important initiative furthers the NYPD’s ongoing commitment to assist the communities and businesses we serve,” Commanding Officer of the 109th Precinct Deputy Inspector Louron Hall said. “It reflects the active listening to local concerns our officers carry out every day, on every tour and the intelligence-driven strategies we employ to keep improving public safety. We are proud to work in unison on this program with our partners in the Queens District Attorney’s office. With the approach of summer, we know it will take all of us together — the public, in tandem with our hardworking police officers — to ensure we continue meeting the challenges we collectively face.”
A total of 25 stores are currently part of the Jamaica initiative. These stores range in size from mom-and-pop shops to retail chains. Since the creation of the program, a total of 23 trespass notices were given out by Jamaica’s 103rd Precinct. Of those 23 individuals, just three of them ended up returning to the stores, resulting in their arrest.
“Safety is a top priority for our community and we want to keep everyone in Downtown Flushing safe,” Flushing BID Executive Director Dian Song Yu said. “With this initiative, we hope it will improve safety and security in our community and promote a more positive environment for businesses to thrive.”
At the time of the program’s launch, Katz noted that 39 businesses have already signed. Any business within the 109th Precinct is eligible to sign up for the program.
“Disruptive people loitering in our stores and other commercial establishments in Flushing not only has the potential to lead to more serious crimes like vandalism and shoplifting, it also dissuades people who actually want to patronize those businesses from entering them in the
first place,” Councilwoman Sandra Ung said. “So not only does this type of activity potentially lead to an increase in crime, it drives away legitimate customers who fear being harassed.”
Katz and the NYPD believe that the program will help to reduce crime in Flushing. They feel this will be done by focusing on people who continue to commit crimes even after being met with by the police. At the same time, the way in which this program allows for the police to do their job while also creating the potential for a way in which the number of people in the criminal justice system does not drastically increase.
“The Flushing Merchants Business Improvement Program will empower our small business owners who have felt helpless for far too long due to the one-two punch of surging anti- Asian hate crimes and economic hardships following the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as an uptick in unwanted, disruptive behavior in and around their stores,” state Senator John Liu said in a statement. “This program puts the power back in the hands of our small business community and I’d like to offer my sincere thanks to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, the 109th Police Precinct and the Flushing BID for coming together to make sure our small businesses have the resources they need to keep themselves, their patrons and our entire community safe.”
Businesses interested in signing up for the program can do so by calling the 109th Precinct and asking for the Neighborhood Coordination Officers (NCOs). The officers would then put the name of the business on the list with the rest of those signed up. Another way of doing so is contacting the Flushing BID.