Thursday afternoon, as Pilgrim boutique co-owner Brian Bennett described his violent encounter with shoplifters 48 hours earlier, two police officers on foot patrol walked slowly up and down his block of Orchard Street. A few doors north, a cruiser was parked in front of An Choi restaurant, with an officer at the wheel.
“This has gotten totally out of hand and we can’t defend ourselves,” said Bennett, who wound up in the hospital Tuesday night after confronting four suspects who were attempting to steal from his store. Bennett suffered a severely bruised back and head from being stomped on. His partner, designer Richard Ives, is still at home recovering from a trip through Pilgrim’s plate glass window, with injuries to his head, neck, shoulders and arms that needed 100 stitches.
“It’s a double-edged sword because we don’t want to scare people away from shopping here,” Bennett said. “But we need help.”
A community meeting has been planned for Tuesday to discuss better tactics for preventing crime in the neighborhood, which Bennett and other business owners say is a regular occurrence. Though the physical struggle and the resulting foot chase by neighboring merchants was unusual, the shoplifting that led to it was not, Bennett said Thursday.
The four suspects, three of whom were arrested a few blocks from the scene and charged with multiple counts, had apparently been a on a spree prior to the scuffle at Pilgrim, Bennett said. Along with the $300 necklace taken from Pilgrim, police recovered additional jewelry and other items stolen from a variety of stores in the vicinity.
The young woman charged in Tuesday’s incident has been in Pilgrim at least twice before, Bennett said, once making off with a vintage Chanel purse. Just 10 days ago, an associate of Bennett’s ejected another quartet of young adults who were acting suspicious. He had his cell phone stolen from behind his desk about three weeks ago.
Pilgrim’s proprietors are not alone in their experience; other merchants and businesspeople up and down Orchard say they regularly have purses, laptops, cell phones, iPods and other objects in broad daylight during business hours.
Capt. David Miller of the 7th Precinct urged merchants and residents to attend the next regularly scheduled Community Council meeting on Wednesday, June 22 at 7:30 in the 7th Precinct headquarters, to share details of their experience and address their concerns.