Saying the uptick in crime is already creating fear among their workers, restaurant owners fear that Bragg's new plan could make things even worse.
The past couple of years has been an uphill battle, to say the least, for Manhattan restaurant owner Stathis Antonakopoulis. Shortly after opening the Carnegie Diner and Café in 2019, business was brought to a screeching halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. Then, there was a sudden uptick in crime.
"We had our windows broken down. We had a robbery where they broke in and took out money from the register," Antonakopoulis explains.
"One of our employees, someone stole their cell phone when they weren’t looking," Richie Romero, co-owner of Zazzy’s Pizza adds.
To deal with crimes like this, newly elected District Attorney Alvin Bragg is implementing a different strategy.
Last week, Bragg issued a memo to his staff, directing them not to prosecute low-level crimes and to divert first-time offenders to treatment.
His policy has been criticized by police unions, lawmakers, and now, by many small business owners.
"I have night shift waiters that are refusing to work at nighttime because they’re refusing to take the train to go home and one of them actually quit because of that reason," Antonakopoulis says.
Bragg has publicly announced that he will continue to prosecute armed robbery and assaults as felonies.
A spokesperson from the District Attorney’s office doubled down on Bragg's commitment to deal "swiftly and sternly with those who threaten violent harm."
However, Romero has opted to take matters into his own hands by hiring a private security guard to work the night shift.
"What if someone threatens one of my employees and puts a gun in their face? That’s life-changing for them, even if they don’t get hurt," he argues.
Small business owners who can’t afford to take on additional expenses are hoping for more fluid community conversations down the road.