New York City Business Groups Add Private Security as Crime Rises – The Wall Street Journal

Officials at the Bryant Park Corp., which operates the park in Midtown Manhattan, say they added two patrol guards this summer.

Photo: William Volcov/Zuma Press

New York City business associations have hired additional security guards this summer in the midst of a surge in violent crime and a decrease in arrests by police.

Three business-improvement districts in Manhattan and a neighborhood group in Queens said they have added private guards to patrol streets and public spaces.

Officials from the business groups said the additional guards, who are usually unarmed and report issues to police, are crucial as businesses reopen and more workers return to offices in Manhattan. The guards help visitors and workers feel more confident in their safety, the officials said.

“Companies are trying to come back to work, and they’re faced with a situation that is not really inviting,” said Gerald Scupp, vice president of the Garment District Alliance, which hired 12 additional security workers to guard streets in the Manhattan neighborhood.

Mr. Scupp, whose group represents 575 property owners and more than 6,500 businesses, said an increase in quality-of-life issues, such as public urination and the use of intravenous drugs, had a negative impact on foot traffic and outdoor dining.

Officials at the Bryant Park Corp., which operates the park in Midtown Manhattan, said they added two patrol guards this summer. The Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Alliance, a group representing businesses, hired two additional guards to police areas. And in Long Island City, Queens, a neighborhood group held an online fundraiser to pay for security guards to patrol a waterfront park after complaints of parties, noise and littering.

Shootings and homicides have increased over the summer as the city began a phased reopening of its economy and loosened restrictions meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Commercial burglaries rose during the pandemic, and some violence and looting followed protests in Manhattan over the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25.

Since the spring, the city has moved 10,000 homeless people out of shelters in part to prevent the spread of the virus, with some of the residents moving to hotels and others into permanent housing. The moves have prompted complaints from some residents in Manhattan neighborhoods.

The exterior of Saks Fifth Avenue in Midtown Manhattan in June.

Photo: John Minchillo/Associated Press

The rise in crime and complaints about quality-of-life issues prompted 163 business leaders in the city to sign a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio last week. The letter warned about the deteriorating condition of the city in the wake of the pandemic and a growing anxiety over quality of life, cleanliness and public safety.

The letter urged the Democratic mayor to restore services that had been cut in the city budget that Mr. de Blasio and the New York City Council passed earlier this summer. The budget reduced or eliminated services such as garbage pickups and graffiti removal, as well as shifting nearly $1 billion in funding away from the New York Police Department. The city still faces a $9 billion deficit over the next two years and might have to lay off 22,000 government workers in the coming weeks.

The business group Partnership for New York City said it organized the letter after members expressed concern from employees this summer as they planned a return to workplaces.

Mr. de Blasio said in a written statement responding to the letter that he was grateful for the city’s business community. But state lawmakers must approve borrowing authority for the city so it can close a budget gap and restore services, he added.

A spokesman for Mr. de Blasio said the city is working with business associations and that the city has made progress fighting crime.

Executives from security firms reported an increased demand for their services in New York City and other cities this summer after those services were reduced in some cases as business activity fell during the height of the pandemic.

David Yorio, co-owner of Manhattan-based Citadel Security Agency, said in an interview that his firm has received more than a dozen calls for security services from residential buildings in Manhattan this summer, an increase from only a handful of such calls last year.

Likewise, executives from the security firms Allied Universal and G4S said they had seen an uptick in requests for services in New York in recent months.

Allied Universal Chief Executive Steve Jones said many businesses reduced their security operations by 25% during the height of shutdowns in the pandemic. Those companies have since increased their security operations by half, even though most workers haven’t yet returned to their offices.

“What we’ve seen is staffing going back to those normal levels because of the increased protests, criminal activity and homelessness,” Mr. Jones said.

Write to Ben Chapman at Ben.Chapman@wsj.com

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