NYC bodegas install panic buttons amid surge in violent attacks

In the wake of a rise in attacks against bodega owners and workers in New York City, several bodegas across New York City are installing panic buttons in order to stay safe.

"Today we are launching a pilot program where bodegas in New York City will be able to get what we’ve been asking for years," said Fernando Mateo, spokesman for United Bodegas of America.

The advocacy group reached out to security company SaferWatch for help, and the firm stepped up installing panic button systems in 4 bodegas in areas considered to be crime hot spots.

The panic buttons are designed to notify the NYPD and neighboring stores of danger in real-time. 

The owner of the Florida-based firm, Geno Roefaro flew into the city Wednesday for the launch.

"These technologies have already saved many lives and prevented incidents from going further," he shared.

"When a bodega owner or a clerk is in danger, they no longer have to try to pick up their phone to call 911 or get stabbed or shot while doing so. They press this button, a text alarm will go out to numerous people," said Mateo. 

The launch follows a string of violent incidents at bodegas in just the last week.

On June 22nd, medics rushed a bodega clerk and mom of three to the hospital with severe injuries to the face following a brutal attack with a sledgehammer in the Bronx.

That same week, on Thursday, the 20th, a bodega worker was stabbed multiple times in the chest after refusing to give store credit to a stranger.

On the 19th, just one day before that attack, police confirmed that a 33-year-old bodega clerk who UBA identified as Joseph Lewis was shot in the stomach before being rushed to the hospital.

Though the tech could potentially cost taxpayers $3,000 per store per year, NYC's 15th district Councilmember Oswald Feliz wants to convince his colleagues to invest $15M into the program.

"This panic button will send one clear message, that violence in our bodegas will not be tolerated and if anybody tries to engage in violence or crime you will be held accountable," Feliz told reporters.