Web Stories Thursday, April 25

Retail employees near state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s Bronx office say they are regularly forced to deal with violent armed shoplifters — and live in constant fear they’ll be the next Big Apple store worker attacked on the job.

“How can you not feel fear? I’m scared all the time. It could happen to me, too,” said Fkouro Mk, 60, a beauty-salon worker on same block as the district office of the powerful Albany pol — who last week infamously rebuffed proposed tough-on-crime penalties for those who violently target retail employees.

Abid Taher, 22, who works at the nearby Total by Verizon phone store, added to The Post on Tuesday, “We can’t do business like this.

“We’re scared every time — I have to keep the door locked and check to see if they have ski mask on,” the young clerk said of customers.

Taher, who was once threatened with a knife when he confronted a shoplifter, said his store has been hit up by a gun-wielding perp four times in the past year alone.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (left) is balking at supporting Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to get tough on violent criminals who attack retail workers. Robert Miller

“We think it’s the same person. He robs again, gets bail, and in a few days, he comes again,” the worker said, noting the last incident was just two weeks ago.

“They’re getting bail so easily. They should be getting jail time,” he said of suspects.

A frightened store clerk who works at the deli opposite Heastie’s office said he and his colleagues are regularly targeted by armed offenders, too.

“We’ve been hit so many times, and people threaten to come back and shoot us,” said the worker, who was too scared to give his name.

“Every day, we’re facing the same situation.”

The employees lashed out after Heastie, their locally elected official, sparked outrage last week when he shut down Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to toughen sentences for the criminals, declaring, “I just don’t believe raising penalties is ever a deterrent to crime.”

Noah Ali, who works at the Best Fresh Fruit & Fish Market near Heastie’s district office in The Bronx, questioned what the powerful state Assembly speaker is doing to protect local workers. Tomas E. Gaston

“How can [Heastie] say no to more penalties? It will improve safety for us,” Taher, the phone store employee, said. “We don’t want to get shot over money and phones.”

Noah Ali, who works at the local Best Fresh Fruit & Fish Market, raged, “I have a question for him — if he’s saying raising the penalties are not going to work, then what is he doing about it?

“What is he doing in the first place to help us out? At the end of the day, we are the ones supporting him. We’re the businesses in this area. And it’s not what can he do, it’s what is he doing? It’s frustrating,” the 23-year-old worker added.

Michael — a 25-year-old employee at a pharmacy close to Heastie’s office — slammed the pol’s remarks as “pretty insane.

“I feel so bad. These people have families and trying to support their families, and they get physically assaulted. This could cost people their lives,” the employee said of victims and local crime. 

But Heastie simply doubled down on his remarks Tuesday, telling reporters in Albany, “I was simply asked a question of, ‘Do I believe that increasing penalties deters crime?’ and I gave a simple answer, ‘No, I don’t believe in the history of increasing penalties has that ever been the reason that crime has gone down.’

“I’d love somebody to give me an example as to when that happened.”

The Post tells the story of how local employees are lashing out at Heastie. NY Post

“Other things happening is why crime goes down,” he claimed without giving specifics.

“I think we are going to come up with different ideas on how to deal with retail theft,” Heastie added. “The question should not be, ‘Are you going to raise penalties because you want to deter crime?’ The question should be, ‘Do you want to raise penalties because you want people in jail longer?’ ” 

The controversy comes after Hochul, in her budget, called for a crackdown on the explosion of retail thefts, which she estimated is costing Empire State retailers $4.4 billion a year.

She said she also wants to beef up the penalties for those perps who go after store employees — a move the district attorneys that rep Staten Island and Queens publicly threw their support behind when asked by The Post on Tuesday.

“We have seen too many shoplifters destroy our stores that are now closing or operating under lock and key, and too many retail workers victimized as they simply try to stop these brazen thieves,” Staten Island DA Michael McMahon, a Democrat, said in a statement.

“Shopkeepers just want to earn a living for themselves and their family. This madness has to end!”

McMahon added that Heastie’s resistance “ignores those at risk of harm in our stores.”

Fellow Democrat Queens DA Melinda Katz chimed in, “Governor Hochul’s efforts to enhance the crime of assaulting a retail worker to a Class D felony would provide an additional tool to help us combat shoplifting in this city.

“It is absolutely essential that we fight back against retail theft to support local businesses, their workers and shoppers,” Katz added.

The DAs who represent Manhattan and Brooklyn didn’t immediately respond to Post requests for comment.

Additional reporting by Carl Campanile, Vaughn Golden and Kyle Schnitzer

Read the full article here


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