As we reported yesterday, this week’s violent attempted robbery at the Pilgrim vintage clothing boutique has focused new attention on shoplifting and other incidents that have plagued Orchard Street for the past several months. Still recovering from injuries suffered in Tuesday’s bloody altercation, the shop’s co-owner, Brian Bennett said, the situation has “gotten totally out of hand and we can’t defend ourselves.”
Bennett is certainly not alone among Orchard Street business owners, in his belief that more needs to be done to curtail crime on the neighborhood’s main commercial strip. Yesterday afternoon, the management at M & M Environmental, the pest control company at 32 Orchard, reached out to us. Timothy Wong, M & M’s director, said he’s been trying to get the police to pay more attention to incidents happening on lower Orchard (M & M is located between Canal and Hester streets) for several years.
Just three weeks ago, a bag belonging to one of the company’s employees was stolen. It contained a wallet, a Kindle and other personal items. Wong said he’s handed numerous video surveillance tapes over to the police, depicting troubling incidents, including assaults and vandalism. M & M’s cars and trucks, parked in a municipal lot on Broome Street are regularly sprayed with graffiti and have been broken into on several occasions.
Wong called for a more visible police presence on Orchard, especially below Hester Street, which is not as heavily traveled as the blocks between Delancey and Grand, where Pilgrim is located. “We need police patrols down here,” he said. Wong added that most incidents happen after 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening. While several new galleries, restaurants and boutiques have opened above Canal in the last couple of years, it can still be a fairly desolate once the business day ends.
The LES Business Improvement District has organized a meeting, taking place next Tuesday, to talk about security issues. Wong, who sits on the BID board, will be in attendance. Among the topics to be discussed: the need for more security cameras on the street. Some businesses, like M & M, have paid to have them installed. But yesterday BID Executive Director Bob Zuckerman said only two businesses (An Choi and 88 Orchard) have taken advantage of a Lower East Side grant program the BID set up to help defray the costs of buying cameras.
M & M has been located on Orchard since 2001. During that time, Wong has seen the street change dramatically. Clearly, the Lower East Side is safer than it was a decade ago. But Wong believes growing concerns about security have got to be addressed head on. He hopes community leaders and the police department will now come together to make Orchard Street safer.