Mateo: 'These Small Business People Are Targets Of Criminals'

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – In response to recent shooting incidents at bodegas, the head of the national bodega association and Newark Mayor Cory Booker met Sunday to discuss ways to keep store owners and store clerks safe.

Fernando Mateo of the Bodega Association of the U.S. said he is working with the city to try to provide subsidized bullet-proof vests for bodega owners.

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WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reports

“What we’re trying to do is create a situation where we’re buying the vests at a wholesale price where the bodega owners would be able to afford to buy them, not only for themselves but for their clerks,” Mateo told WCBS 880.

The goal is a public-private partnership to help protect bodega workers, Mateo said.

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“We don’t want to use the alternative of saying ‘you know what, arm yourselves, fight back, shoot back.’ No, we want to make sure that if they’re shot at that at least they stand a chance of living,” Mateo said.

“These small business people are targets of criminals, of punks that want an easy way out. And they want to make their money not working, but robbing people. We need to be more aggressive, more proactive,” Mateo said.

Mateo said this is an important issue because of the level of crime in Newark.

“I believe that Mayor Cory Booker is the kind of guy that knows and understands what the streets are about because he comes from the streets. And I’m sure he wants Newark to be a safer place. But if we can’t make the places safer by hiring more cops and having cops stationed in strategic areas, then we need to find alternatives. And that’s what we’re looking for right now,” Mateo told WCBS 880.

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Mateo said the recent shootings in Newark and New York City have sent chills throughout the bodega community.