Apr. 6, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed
The NYPD’s 109th Precinct, in partnership with the Queens District Attorney’s Office and the Flushing Business Improvement District (BID), on Wednesday, April 5, announced the “Flushing Merchants Trespass Notice” — a new initiative that would issue a trespass notice to individuals who engage in disorderly or illegal activities in or outside of shops and stores in downtown Flushing.
About 20 business owners — from restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, liquor stores and the Skyview Shopping Center — were informed of the Merchants Trespass Notice, a program that was designed by the Queens District Attorney’s Office, the NYPD and the business community to prevent individuals from trespassing on private property, particularly on the premises of the store owners.
The Merchants Trespass Notice Information Session, held at the Sheraton LaGuardia Hotel in Flushing, was co-hosted by the Flushing BID in partnership with Councilwoman Sandra Ung, the Queens DA’s office and the 109th Precinct.
Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz said her office has been working on a pilot project with communities across the borough, as crime and public safety are a major concern.
“These are one of the balances that we need to make, and this is one of the bare necessities of running businesses in the borough of Queens County,” Katz said. “One needs to be able to run their retail store to make a living, to make a business and to make sure that the communities can utilize the stores in safety as well.”
The Merchants Trespass Notice allows store owners to revoke individuals’ authority to enter their store premises and if the individual returns, they will be subjected to arrest and prosecution for trespass. This initiative will better protect employees and consumers, as well as strengthen law enforcement and accountability.
Under the program, store owners or their employees are not required to engage with the individuals causing a disruption in their store. Store owners will instead call 911, 311 or the 109th Precinct and a police officer will be dispatched to the location. After a police officer serves the notice, a database will be maintained by both the precinct and the DA’s office, should one of the individuals reappear at the store and will be arrested.
The Flushing Merchants Trespass Notice will emulate the initiative that was first launched in the NYPD’s 103rd Precinct in Jamaica in June 2021.
“The program with the 103rd Precinct came out of a problem expressed by the BID,” said Attorney Joshua Mandell, of Queens District Attorney’s Office. “They were having issues with people engaging in criminal conduct beyond petit larcenies inside and outside of the stores. They were discouraging people from patronizing the stores.”
Since its launch two years ago, the Merchants Trespass initiative has been successful in the 103rd Precinct. Approximately 25 merchants have signed up for the program, and within that time frame, 24 individuals have been served with a notice, according to Mandell. Of those 24 individuals, only three people have been rearrested for returning to the same store.
Mandell added that in order for the program to be a success, all store owners must be committed to participating in the program and further prosecution of the individuals.
“That is the goal of this program. We are not necessarily looking to increase arrests of individuals. The idea of this program is to deter individuals from coming back to the stores having issued notices,” Mandell said.
As the 109th Precinct has made some progress since receiving additional resources and police officers to combat crime in the communities of downtown Flushing, Bay Terrace, College Point and Whitestone, Inspector Louron Hall noted the precinct’s arrests in shoplifting-related incidents.
“We’ve seen a 5% increase in shoplifting year-to-date …We took 348 shoplifting incidents ranging from robberies to grand larcenies and petit larcenies,” Hall said. “To gauge the success is to have a significant decrease in that number. When you talk about arrests that we’ve done for the year, we’re up 46% in shoplifting-related arrests – that’s 159 vs. 109. The deployment is there, the officers are engaged in making sure that your businesses are as safe as possible.”
Hall said he’s hoping to replicate the success that the 103rd Precinct in Jamaica has seen since implementing the Merchants Trespass Notice. The 109th Precinct will be promoting the program at community meetings and their social media accounts.
The NYPD is currently preparing forms in multiple languages and hopes to launch the program in a couple of weeks, according to Mandell. Business owners are required to register with the NYPD to participate in the program. Upon signing, they will be shown a copy of the police form, which is not available online, and will only be issued when an incident occurs in their store.
There is no deadline to sign up for the program.
If any local merchants or businesses have any questions, contact the Flushing BID by phone (718-888-1805) or by email ([email protected]).