Murder charges against a New York bodega worker who stabbed and killed an attacker in the store 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 unchecked crime against Hispanic businesses 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 Group, 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 also accused Manhattan’s Democratic District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat and Nydia Velazquez of being 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 Washington Times reached out to the Democratic lawmakers for comment but did not hear back.
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 Hispanics.
In New York City, small business owners have been complaining about the crime problem and Mr. Bragg, who is known for his progressive policies that critics say are soft on criminals. The charges against the bodega worker who claims he was defending himself, however, enflamed the misgivings about how the law is being enforced.
The 61-year-old bodega worker, Jose Alba, fended off and slashed Austin Simon, 35, who was attacking the older man behind the counter at the store 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, following a national outcry when 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 Association and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
The survey also 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 are now seeing more of the voting bloc turn to the GOP.
According to an Axios-Ipsos Latino poll released June 30, Gun violence and crime surpassed inflation last month to become the most cited top concern for U.S. Latinos.
Respondents were split over which party confronted crime better. Around 53% said those in office do not take crimes against Latinos seriously enough, and another 31% were unsure.
Mr. Marte said this political attitude shift among shopkeepers in the city goes beyond Hispanic business owners. He said it also includes store owners in the Yemini, Bangladesh 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.