Business Leaders See Signs of Change Despite Times Square Store Shooting

While the New York City Police Department was continuing to search for a 15-year-old suspect who shot a tourist Thursday night in a Times Square store, two business-minded executives spoke of initiatives that have improved public safety in the neighborhood.

Shortly after 7 p.m. on Thursday, the NYPD responded to a call of shots being fired near Broadway and West 41st Street, where they found a 38-year-old woman with a gunshot wound to one leg at a JD Sports store. The victim, a Brazilian tourist, was later treated at NYC Health and Hospitals/Bellevue and released.

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During a press conference Friday in front of H&M’s Times Square flagship, NYPD chief of patrol John Chell said two of the three male suspects had been apprehended and remained in police custody. Video footage of the incident was reexamined and “hundreds” were interviewed, NYPD officials said. The third suspect — 15-year-old Jesus Alejandro Rivas-Figueroa — was arrested in Yonkers later in the day Friday and is facing multiple charges including two counts of attempted murder. Announcing that arrest during a second press conference Friday, New York City police commissioner Edward Caban described the shooting as “beyond reckless” in what is the “busiest, most heavily trafficked part of the city.” After shoplifting from the store’s second floor, the three suspects were stopped by a female security officer and were asked for a sales receipt. When they could not present one, she took the merchandise, according to police officials. Rivas-Figueroa took out a high-caliber handgun, shot at the security guard and hit the Brazilian tourist, who was standing in line waiting to buy a pair of sneakers, police officials said.

While NYPD officers pursued Rivas-Figueroa in Midtown after he fled the store, he allegedly fired shots at police officers before ducking into the Times Square subway station, officials said. The suspect had been residing at the Stratford Arms Hotel on the Upper West Side and had come to the U.S. in September from Venezuela, Chell said. He is believed to have a family connection in Yonkers, where he was later arrested. With the help of the U.S. Marshall Task Force and the Yonkers Police Department, NYPD officials made good on its vow to make an arrest within 24 hours of Thursday’s shooting, Caban said.

Executives at JD Sports declined to comment Friday about any increased security, counseling services for employees or funds earmarked for the victim.

Times Square, which stretches from 40th to 53rd Streets and from Sixth to Eighth Avenues, is a major commercial neighborhood and tourist destination. About 250,000 pedestrians passed through on average last week, according to the Times Square Alliance’s vice president of communications TJ Witham. However, on Tuesday, more than 300,000 people passed through.

Retail crime in New York remains a pressing issue for many major companies, including chains like Target, Walmart and CVS that have closed select locations due to theft. The National Retail Federation reported that when taken as a percentage of total retail sales in 2022, retail shrink accounted for $112.1 billion in losses, compared to $93.9 billion in 2021.

Times Square has a dedicated 137-person NYPD unit and two police precincts — Midtown North and Midtown South — within its borders and the police presence was slightly greater Friday, according to Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance, which houses about 600 retailers. He described the shooting as “an unfortunate incident. We see Times Square filled with tourists and New Yorkers alike enjoying themselves today.”

Harris said there have not been any other shootings in a Times Square store this year. In addition, the NYPD revealed Thursday that a police unit is being assigned to increase patrols around theaters. “We are always working closely with the police department and the [New York City Mayor Eric] Adams administration to bring the resources that we need to keep people safe,” Harris said.

Harris, a 16-year veteran with the alliance, said he spoke with the manager of the hotel where the victim was staying, who had spoken to her Friday. “He said she was in great spirits. Today is her last day in the city and all she wanted to do was finish up the shopping that she was doing yesterday,” Harris said.

Pre- and post-holiday pedestrian counts in the Fashion District Business Alliance exceeded 2019 figures, thanks largely to tourists, according to president Barbara Blair. Last year the city attracted 64 million tourists. “The one problem is there aren’t as many office tenants and that’s a problem for ground-floor retail. When 20 percent of those people are missing, that has a huge impact. But the bars are packed midweek during happy hours,” Blair said.

As of late September, 58 percent of Manhattan office workers were in the workplace on an average weekday and the expectation is that that will only increase to 59 percent on a long-term basis, according to the Partnership for New York City.

Neighborhood crime rates and the conditions on the street have improved “dramatically” in the past three to four months, Blair said. Last year Midtown South robberies decreased by nearly 32 percent and burglaries were down by 38.2 percent compared to 2022, according to NYPD statistics. In addition, the annual rates for murder and rape declined by 62.5 and 39.1 percent, respectively. Petit larcenies, however, increased by 17.6 percent in the precinct.

“We’re on the right track. There’s a lot that’s being done with the police. One of the problems that we have is with the courts that don’t [always] lead to prosecution even when [some] people have [committed] multiple violations, crimes and summonses,” Blair said. “It’s not the police because [the robbers are sometimes] getting arrested over and over again. The judges are not holding them even in some cases where the district attorney has attempted to hold some of them.”

Blair said that she and “a bunch of Midtown BIDs” [Business Improvement Districts] are advocating to state officials for legislation related to involuntary removal from the street, if someone is a harm to themselves or others. “What we’re really trying to say to Albany is that individuals who do not have the capacity to make health care decisions for themselves and are creating disturbances in neighborhoods that are threatening or frightening others in the neighborhood have to be removed from the streets. And that does not mean throwing them in jail or in an institution,” Blair said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated on Feb. 10 at 12:30 p.m.

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