- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Murder charges against a New York bodega worker who stabbed an attacker have put a spotlight on big-city crime and the plight of minority-owned businesses forced to fend for themselves.

A prominent bodega business organization said the rampant crime is driving Hispanic voters away from the Democratic Party and to the Republican Party.

“Our Latino elected officers have been so quiet about the violence affecting the city of New York and most of the cities in the USA,” said Francisco Marte, president of the Bodega and Small Business Association, which represents 16,000 bodegas in New York City.

Mr. Marte called out what he sees as inaction from New Yorkers in Congress, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

“She’s in favor of the criminals. She’s in favor of the DA. She’s too liberal,” he said.

He said New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Nydia M. Velazquez have been missing in action during the crime wave.

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“A lot of Latinos are whispering, ‘I’m going with the Republicans. I don’t want to be with the Democrats anymore. They are not doing anything. They are just in favor of crime.’ They love that kind of environment so they can stay in power,” he said.

The Democratic lawmakers did not respond to requests for comment.

The movement of bodega workers and other Hispanic voters away from Democrats is not expected to alter the party’s dominance of political power in New York City, though it is part of a national trend of Republicans picking up more support from those voters.

Small-business owners in New York have been complaining that Mr. Bragg’s liberal policies are soft on criminals, but the charges against the bodega worker who said he was defending himself inflamed the misgivings about how laws are enforced.

Bodega worker Jose Alba, 61, slashed Austin Simon, 35, who was attacking him behind the counter on July 1. Simon died at the scene.

Police arrested Mr. Alba and charged him with second-degree murder. Mr. Alba was sent to Rikers Island on a $250,000 bond.

A judge reduced Mr. Alba’s bail to $50,000 amid a national outcry after a video of the incident was released.

Mr. Marte said the bodega association helped raise the money to bail out Mr. Alba last week.

The bodegas, which are mostly Hispanic-owned, have experienced a 70% to 80% spike in crime, according to a survey conducted by the Bodega and Small Business Association and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The survey found that 80% of respondents who work in bodegas named crime as their top concern.

“The crime is not just in the bodegas. It’s in the supermarkets. It’s in the retail stores that sell cellphones. We have issues with the restaurants,” Frank Garcia, president of the National Association of Latino State Chambers of Commerce, told the New York Post.

Democrats have long had the majority of support from Hispanic voters, but more of them are turning to Republicans.

According to an Axios-Ipsos Latino poll released June 30, gun violence and crime surpassed inflation last month to become the top concern among Hispanics in the U.S.

Respondents were split over which party confronted crime better. About 53% said those in office do not take crimes against Hispanics seriously enough, and 31% said they were unsure.

Mr. Marte said the shift in political attitudes among New York shopkeepers goes beyond Hispanic business owners. He said it also includes store owners in the Yemeni, Bangladeshi and African communities.

“I chatted with a lot of different people, even different organizations, because what I’m trying to do is to have good relations with any organization. I tell them, ‘Let us come together and keep your own identity to have one strong voice,’” he said.

• Kerry Picket can be reached at kpicket@washingtontimes.com.

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