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Transcript: Mayor Adams Announces new Pilot Program to Combat Retail Theft, Create Efficiencies, Improve Police-Community Relations Using Innovative Technology

May 16, 2024

Deputy Mayor Fabien Levy, Communications: Good afternoon, everybody. My name is Fabien Levy, and I serve as deputy mayor for Communications for the City of New York. Thank you for joining us today. Welcome back to the 125th BID, where we were here last year for the announcement of our retail theft report.  

First off, I want to thank Deputy Mayor Phil Banks for helping lead our city's extraordinary public safety efforts and working to keep all of us safe with today's announcement. Thank you to the leaders across public safety, business and city government who are joining us here today, including NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban, NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny, NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri, NYPD Chief of Information Technology Ruben Beltran, NYPD Assistant Chief of the Detective Bureau Jason Savino, NYPD Deputy Inspector and Chief Officer of the Real Time Crime Center Joseph Kersting, NYPD Lieutenant at the Real Time Crime Center Michael Ricupero, Chief Agency Liaison at the Office of Public Safety Horace Norville, Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District Executive Director Dian Song Yu, 125th Street Business Improvement District President and CEO Barbara Askins, Senior Vice President of Fusus by Axon Chris Lindenau and Councilmember Oswald Feliz.  

Our administration is laser focused on protecting public safety, rebuilding our economy and creating a more livable city for all working-class New Yorkers. Today, we're excited to announce an initiative that will do all three. It will help crack down on retail theft, protect and have the opportunity to grow local businesses and improve our quality of life. It will do all that while creating more efficiencies and building relationships with local communities. To tell you more about that, I'd like to turn it over to Mayor Eric Adams. 

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Thanks so much, DM Levy, and really thank the entire team. I know DM Banks is not here with us, but this has been a vision that he has embraced and talked about. To finally see the actualization of this initiative is so important. Today I was proud as I moved around the city to see Chief Chell, the chief of Patrol, and Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry testifying in Washington, D.C. on our use of drones and the admiration that many of our federal leaders are looking towards New York City. 

New York City is leading from the front. There's clearly an overwhelming number, a majority of New Yorkers who understand how we can use technology effectively, really ensuring that we protect the constitutional rights and safeguards of everyday New Yorkers, but to use it to quickly identify, apprehend and bring to justice those who are committing acts on our cities. We stated two years ago as we took office, the goal was to drive down crime. 40 percent increase in January when we took office and we saw a remarkable result, double digit decrease in homicides, double digit decrease in shootings. You witnessed thousands of illegal guns removed off our streets, making the city more livable.  

The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety. A livable city is a safe city and New York City remains the safest big city in America — I cannot say that enough — because of the road that the men and women of the Police Department have been doing for so many years. We are clear in this administration that it is about not only giving the stats of safety, but people must feel safe. Anything that erodes that feeling of safety is going to get in the way and overshadow the success we're doing statistically. Nothing erodes it more than going into your local store and you have to call someone to unlock the toothpaste, unlock the hair shampoo when I had hair, unlock all of the items that we have. That is an erosion. This is a phenomenon that has swept our country.  

New York is saying we're not sitting back and throwing up our hands. That's a signal of urban surrender. We refuse to surrender to any form of criminality. We're not going to allow shoplifters and organized crime rings to prey on businesses. Barbara has been very clear on this. I cannot thank Barbara enough. From my first day in office, we walked the 125th Street BID and we talked about what we can do to change it. You have been a real pioneer and a leader in this area. We have joined together so many initiatives.  

We know that theft means higher prices for everyday New Yorkers. I remember speaking with Public Safety Chair Yusef Salaam and we were sitting down talking and he was talking about his seniors who have to take the bus to go get their medication filled. He talked about how some of them are concerned about the public safety issue. We know we have the balance of safety and justice can go together, and that's what we want to provide. When you have a local drugstore, a local business closed down, you're also losing jobs. You are inconveniencing the residents. It has a long-term impact on the quality of life of the community.  

Today we're announcing a pilot program that uses technology to bust retail and bodega thefts. Fusus technology uses a camera integration platform that allows businesses to voluntarily integrate their security cameras with their local NYPD precinct — this is a home run — to existing close circuit security cameras. This tech will allow information to be shared between businesses and the NYPD faster than ever before. It will allow us to gather real time intelligence on retail crimes and apprehend the criminals responsible. Importantly, it will increase efficiencies and improve community relations between local police precincts and the New Yorkers they serve by allowing New Yorkers and local businesses to take a more proactive role to protect their communities and improve the quality of life across the five boroughs.  

What's more is that by utilizing existing resources, we are protecting public safety by being fiscally responsible and streamlining services. Gone are the days that government alone places cameras in the neighborhood on its own. We're seeing everything from the doorbell Ring cameras. We see how really proactive they've been in apprehending individuals. Now we are expanding to our local stores, bodegas to assist us. These businesses, which is key, they are voluntarily saying we still believe in the city and want to contribute to its safety.  

This technology builds on the work of our Retail Theft Task Force and the NYPD, something that Deputy Mayor Banks chaired. This has been born out of a continuing conversation with our Retail Theft Task Force leaders of how do we use technologies and other methodologies to deal with the issue of retail theft? Is it a problem? You're darn right it is. 2023 alone, 25,480 retail theft arrests were made. Arrests were made. Out of the 542 repeat offenders, they were responsible for 30 percent of those arrests. Now, 542 people have been arrested over 7,600 times. So we're able to identify them early and take them off the street, they do not become a menace to our retail community. We cannot keep letting these recidivists back on the streets without consequences. That is our concern.  

Through the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau Crime Prevention Division, we have been working with retail establishments to analyze and improve their security and the Department of Small Business Services under Commissioner Kim has upgraded their lighting in commercial corridors. We're working with our partners in the criminal justice system to utilize the harm-on-harm provision. This is a real victory for us in Albany. This provision gives courts the ability to set bail if an individual is alleged to have persistently committed similar crimes. We're working with nonviolent offenders to utilize alternatives to incarceration. We want to fix the problem and we know we can't just arrest our way out of it.  

Today's announcement, by adding more technology to our toolbox to enforce the law and fight these crime, we say it over and over it becomes a trademark for our administration, public safety is the prerequisite to prosperity and it keeps us focused, disciplined and pushing back on those who believe they're going to prey on these establishments. We rely on New Yorkers. It's essential to our city. Their feedback is essential. We want to continue to maintain this as the safest big city in America. No other place like New York. I thank the police commissioner and his entire team for what they're doing, for changing the face of policing in our city. Thank you. 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, Mayor Adams. Every day, members of the New York City Police Department work tirelessly to keep New Yorkers and their businesses safe. This pilot would not be possible without their efforts. I'm pleased to turn it over to NYPD Commissioner Edward Caban. 

Police Commissioner Edward Caban: Thank you very much and good afternoon, everyone. I'm happy to join Mayor Adams, Deputy Mayor Levy and the leadership of the 125th Street Business Improvement District to announce this important partnership. Local businesses are the engine that drives New York City. Above all, they must be safe and secure. That goes for the workers, the customers and the stores themselves.  

Last summer, we began testing security camera integration platform in Queens, and we've seen very positive results. The capability of business owners to share information with detectives quickly and seamlessly is key. It launches more efficient investigations, builds stronger cases and leads to more effective prosecutions. Ultimately, it helps us all get what we want, a safer city. We're grateful to the mayor and his team for helping us expand this pilot program to 10 additional precincts citywide. The locations are based on crime data and community input. Our deployments will adapt to changing conditions. As we've said, participation is completely free for the business and it’s 100 percent voluntary. Based on the success we have, we're sure business owners will realize the advantages of this program and they'll be eager to be a part of it.  

The registration process is fast and simple. Anyone who wants the information can reach out to us or to your local BID. Public safety is a shared responsibility, and no one understands that better than the people who work and live in these communities. Together, through leading edge technology and clear communication between the police and the people we serve, we are keeping this the safest big city in the nation. That's what New Yorkers demand. That's what they deserve. That's what the NYPD is going to deliver. Thank you. 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, commissioner. New York City would not be able to hit the all-time high jobs record again and again and again without the work of local businesses across the city who power our economy. I'm pleased to turn it over to someone who has been instrumental in revitalizing our economy and creating a more livable city, the executive director of the Flushing Business Improvement District, Dian Song Yu. 

Dian Song Yu, Executive Director, Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District: All right, good afternoon. I want to thank Mayor Adams for inviting us and also to pick Flushing BID as our first pilot case. The Fusus program is a great example of a partnership between the private and the public. With the Fusus program, our local precinct was able to catch a perpetrator within 24 hours. With that case, the shop owners and property owners feel safer. I'm sure it's a vision to all that with this program, it will only make Queens and New York City safer, but also to prevent crimes from happening. With that, I want to thank everybody. 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, Dian. Next, I'm pleased to welcome the president and CEO of the 125th Street Business Improvement District and a true leader here in the community, Barbara Askins. 

Barbara Askins, President and CEO, 125th Street Business Improvement District: Thank you. Thank you again, Mayor Adams. You've been here since day one of your administration for 125th Street. Some of my BID managers are even jealous how much of your attention I get. We also have to thank Deputy Mayor Banks, because Dian, after you did your program, he explained it to me and said, I'd like to try this on 125th Street. We went to work. Today we have 13 businesses in the hub that are working with it.  

The message I want to give is we're not trying to arrest more people, but we do want to send the message out that if you shoplift on 125th Street, you are going to be seen, which probably means you are going to be caught. Ultimately, you may be arrested. We want to get that message out. 125th Street is no longer the place for you to come and shoplift at will. Thank you. 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you very much, Barbara. I think that you made a very good point, Deputy Mayor Banks wanted us to make is that this is about also community relations. Since this is a fully voluntary program, we want to make sure local businesses are involved and local community members are involved in this. Finally, I'd like to turn it over to New York City Councilmember Oswald Feliz to say a few words. Thank you. 

Councilmember Oswald Feliz: Thank you. Thank you so much. Good afternoon, everyone. I'm Councilmember Oswald Feliz, proudly representing District 15 in the Bronx, a district that covers a lot of important small business corridors, Fordham Road, East Tremont, Arthur Avenue and many others, and also the proud chair of the Committee on Small Business. I just want to start by thanking Mayor Adams for giving this issue unequivocal attention since day one, an issue that is literally crushing, hammering our small businesses, our small business owners.  

Our small business owners wake up early every single day to support our communities. They create local jobs. They make our communities vibrant, and they generally own the small businesses in our communities. They spend a lot of days, long days, long nights away from their family. It is important that we protect their hard work and the sacrifices that they make every single day so they could be able to support their families.  

Now, retail theft. Retail theft is hammering our businesses in the worst ways possible. Retail theft can easily lead to disinvestment in any community. Why would any business consider renting and opening up and investing in a community where individuals can literally go in and remove all the items from a second to the next? If that does happen, how are employee salaries going to get paid? How is rent going to be paid? Why would any customer go into a business that has empty shelves?  

It is important that we protect the hard work, the sacrifice of those small business owners. I want to thank Mayor Adams and the NYPD for giving this issue unequivocal attention. Might get in a little bit of trouble for saying this, but obviously this is an issue that is affecting many jurisdictions in the country. I don't know when it became cool to ignore it, but I'm thankful that we have a mayor that is giving this unequivocal attention. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Thank you, Council member. I don't know why you would get in trouble for saying that. We'll take some questions about the announcement. 

Question: Few questions. I just want to know. I know it's not costing the businesses anything, but is it costing the city anything? You said it's an extension so with the 10 new precincts now, how many precincts started? Then I just have a question about the technology. Does the NYPD then have access to the cameras 24/7? Or is it somebody comes in, shoplifts the business, then alerts the NYPD, some NYPD, somebody shoplift, and then they grab that still? 

Chief Ruben Beltran, Information Technology, Police Department: There is a cost that we're consuming as part of this. We're going to end up at the end of this year, next 12 months, installing around 15,000 cameras. We'll also be installing devices in the participating stores to be able to connect to their video systems. That's approximately $1.5 million and it’s drastically reduced the cost, it would cost the city for us to put our Argus cameras, our crime reduction cameras, because here we're leveraging the investment that the stores have already made in terms of keeping their employees secure and keeping their business secure.  

The cost of an Argus camera, not including maintenance, would be $40,000 dollars a camera. You need at least two cameras in a box, which are around $80,000 dollars each. It's drastically reduced from the cost of putting out there in the public space, putting out the public cameras. We expect to add another 15,000 cameras to the 70,000 cameras that we already have access to through our Lower Manhattan Security Initiative, through critical infrastructure stakeholders and other big corporations in the city. 

Mayor Adams: If we would have done the 15,000 cameras, Argus cameras at the cost of Argus cameras, it would have not been really financially sustainable. I think that's why bond raters increased our ratings on how well I do at managing the money of New Yorkers. 

Deputy Mayor Levy: Just to be clear, to show the cost savings, he was saying $40,000 dollars to use the Argus camera. It's about $100 to utilize the technology from these companies. That's a huge cost savings for the city of New York. I'd also point out to your second question, Kelly. No, this is not, if businesses do not want to participate 24/7, they want to just participate at ad hoc, they can do that. 

Question: So often we hear about when they're shoplifting, that employees, understandably, don't want to stop this, catch the shoplifters in the act, don't want to stop them because they don't want to put themselves at risk. What can be done? Obviously, these crimes are easier to prosecute if you catch someone in the act. How does this help with sort of the immediacy of being able to catch a perpetrator and does it? 

Chief Michael Lipetri, Crime Control Strategies, Police Department: Good morning or good afternoon. What we see is when we take a complaint, the arrest percentage of that day's complaint is much higher than as the investigation goes through. We get that data right away. We get that security footage. We make an arrest within one day. We're clearing well over 50 percent of our shoplifting complaints. Once it stretches days and days and days, it makes it more difficult for the investigation.  

The technology, along with putting more officers in business districts, we've seen a very sharp increase in our shoplifting arrests. The mayor alluded to this year already, this year already, we have over 10,000 arrests for shoplifting. That's going to be higher than the 25,000 last year so we are laser focused on it. I don't know if anybody saw the CompStat sheet. The CompStat sheet really hasn't changed in 30 years. It changed this year. We put retail theft on the CompStat sheet. That's how important it is to the NYPD and to the mayor. 

Question: …Details on what the head of the Flushing business district talked about someone being caught very quickly. 

Chief Lipetri: Yes. When we look at the 109 Precinct and we look around that Main Street corridor where, again, we moved a lot of offices on foot, we saw, again, a sharp increase in arrests and a decrease in shoplifting complaints. 

Question: This idea sounds so good, especially if some cameras are live when they're doing what they do. The problem is that some bodegas, some retail stores say that the problem is like some people come with masks and actually some stores are telling like we don't mask. What's the city is going to do about people coming with masks, especially at night inside of stores. 

Mayor Adams: I should say late last year, we put our request to our store owners and those who are in charge there to request people remove their mask temporarily as they enter the store. In COVID it may have protected us from the spread of the disease, but it has become a tool that's being used at those who want to commit crimes, the mask and covering their faces. It is a real problem when it comes down to apprehensions on many levels.  

We do good police work. We're able to find other methodologies to identify a person. We would say to the bodegas, when I speak to the bodegas associations, we say we encourage not only the bodegas and many of the establishment, the retail establishment, tell people to temporarily release their mask. If a person refuses to do so, that right there should cause you some sense of alarm.  


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