Business owners call on lawmakers to fight back against theft, assault on store employees

Small businesses are calling on Albany to fight back against a rise in retail thefts amid an ongoing push to improve public safety in this year's budget.
Yonkers store owners say the number of thefts and assaults on employees has gotten out of hand and they fear they'll be out of business if something isn't done.
Big box stores have increasingly turned to alarms and locking up everyday items to prevent theft.
Z Deli City owner Abdulmelik Deumih says he considers himself lucky. Thieves have only hit his store a few times, taking only small items.
"It's not fair that this is happening, and we can't do anything about it," he says. 
As News 12 has reported, a number of these crimes have played out over the last few weeks, including a brazen theft in Yonkers and a business owner slashed during a robbery in New Rochelle.
Yemeni American Merchant Association Co-founder Zaid Nagi believes these bills can help keep businesses safe and open.
"This is a life and death matter," he says. 
The bills would make assaulting a store employee a class D felony putting it in the same protected category as first responders, make it illegal to knowingly sell stolen items online and raise the penalty against repeat offenders.
State Assemblyman Nader Sayegh is a co-sponsor.
"Really elevate the crime to a point where we feel it would deter it," says Nader. 
Employees argue crime is already taking a toll by making people more afraid to open a new business, shorter operating hours and increasing prices for customers to make up for stolen goods.
"If you really want to go and assess the health of any community, go to the bodega. If the bodega is safe and sound and everybody is able to enter then the community is doing well," says Nagi. 
Sayegh is also pushing the state to fund security improvements like better cameras and silent panic buttons for small businesses.
Gov. Kathy Hocul’s office released new crime statistics on Wednesday, showing that larcenies outside of New York City went up 18% between 2021 and 2022 but shootings were down over 15% - data the governor is using to push for bail reform in the budget.