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Smash-and-grab NYC: Manhattan restaurants getting hit often, owners want more police presence

By Lee Cleveland - June 30, 2023

In recent months, Manhattan restaurant owners have faced an alarming surge in smash-and-grab burglaries, leaving them grappling with financial losses and a sense of vulnerability. The Lower East Side, in particular, has experienced a significant increase in such incidents, leading to frustration and concerns about the safety and security of businesses in the area.

What are Smash-and-Grab Burglaries?
Per Wikipedia, a smash-and-grab is a particular form of burglary or looting that involves smashing a barrier, usually a display window in a shop or a showcase, grabbing valuables, and then making a quick getaway, without concern for setting off alarms or creating noise.

Recent smash-and-grab crimes have involved ramming a pickup truck through the walls of a convenience store or gas station in order to remove the ATM from the premises and recover the cash. Smash-and-grab raids can occur in many scenarios, both in broad daylight and at night, and the perpetrators can range from experienced thieves to impulsive vandals.

Last Sunday around 4 a.m., Balvanera, the Argentinean restaurant on Stanton Street, was targeted by a thief. Now, Navas, the owner of the restaurant, will have to spend over $1,500 to fix the damages to his storefront.
Courtesy of Fernando Navas

The greatest cost of smash-and-grab raids can often be in replacing the windows or walls, which can sometimes far exceed the cost of the goods that are stolen.

Repeated Break-Ins in Manhattan and the Financial Consequences
One of the affected restaurants, Balvanera, an Argentinian eatery on Stanton Street, has fallen victim to multiple break-ins, including the most recent incident where a thief smashed the glass door and fled with $400 from the cash register. This incident marked the third break-in since last year, resulting in thousands of dollars in damages for the restaurant.

Unfortunately, Balvanera’s experience is not an isolated case as many restaurant owners across Manhattan report suffering from repeat attacks, leading to financial losses in cash and valuable equipment. In fact, according to the NYPD, burglaries in the Lower East Side, where Balvanera is situated, have spiked by a staggering 63.6% this year in the 28-day period ending June 25 compared to last year’s numbers.

“The break-ins are getting out of control. It was not like this pre-COVID,” Nick Moshkovich, director of operations at nearby Bonberi Mart on West 11th Street, via the New York Post.”

There was an attempted break-in last April at Bonberi Mart on West 11th Street.
Courtesy of Stefano Giovannini

“We’re on a quiet street — they’re [thieves] targeting us because there’s less foot traffic. Police drive by, but there are no boots on the ground,” Moshkovich added.

Emanuele Nigro, the co-owner of West Village Italian restaurant Osteria 57 on West 10th Street, shared that they faced some serious losses and damages. During a recent incident, a thief broke in and managed to steal around $4,000 from the cash register along with laptops, iPads, and other small appliances. This unfortunate event resulted in approximately $8,000 worth of damages to the restaurant.

“They were able to get in and take our money, computers – luckily, there was no major damage to the restaurant. They left the place intact, they just went for the money,” Nigro told the New York Post.

And just hours after closing last Saturday night, the 11th Street Cafe owner, Philippe Bonsignour, told the New York Post that they had yet another unfortunate break-in. This time, a thief went as far as smashing the glass storefront. Mr. Bonsignour did not disclose if any cash was taken during this incident.

There was a break-in at the 11th Street Cafe last Sunday in the wee hours of the morning. Courtesy Stefano Giovannini

“Somebody came in yanked the door open,” he said.

Lack of Police Presence and Repeat Offenders
According to locals, thieves are known to hide in outdoor dining sheds and take advantage of the opportunity when police officers pass by.

They highlight the absence of sufficient police presence during the early hours, which emboldens criminals to strike without fear of immediate consequences.

Additionally, the recurrence of these incidents points to the presence of repeat offenders who continue to target establishments with minimal repercussions.

The combination of reduced law enforcement visibility and the lack of deterrents contributes to an environment where restaurants become easy targets for burglaries.

Devastating Effects on Businesses
The impact of these burglaries extends far beyond the immediate financial losses suffered by restaurant owners. The cost of repairing damages to storefronts, replacing stolen cash, and the loss of valuable equipment adds significant strain to already-challenging business operations.

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Moreover, the repeated nature of these incidents creates a climate of fear and insecurity among both restaurant owners and customers. The sense of alarm generated by these burglaries negatively affects the overall atmosphere and reputation of the neighborhood, potentially deterring patrons from visiting and impacting the economic viability of local businesses.

The Need for Enhanced Security Measures
Restaurant owners are considering various enhanced security options, such as installing security cameras, strengthening locks and doors, and investing in advanced security systems. These measures aim to deter criminals, capture valuable evidence for law enforcement purposes, and provide a greater sense of security to both business owners and patrons.

The recent increase in restaurant smash-and-grab burglaries in Manhattan demands immediate attention and collaborative efforts from all stakeholders involved. Restaurant owners, local authorities, and the community must work together to enhance security measures, increase police presence, and foster a sense of unity. By taking a proactive stance against these criminal activities, Manhattan can restore its reputation as a safe and welcoming culinary destination, where restaurant owners can thrive, residents can enjoy memorable dining experiences, and visitors can indulge in the city’s rich culinary offerings.