As the New York City Police Department continues to search for a 15-year-old suspect who shot a tourist Thursday night at a Times Square store, two business leaders spoke about initiatives that have improved public safety in the neighborhood.
Shortly after 7 p.m. Thursday, the NYPD responded to a shots fired call near Broadway and West 41ststr 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.
During a press conference Friday in front of the H&M flagship in Times Square, NYPD Chief of Patrol John Chell said two of the three male suspects have been captured and remain in police custody. Video footage of the incident is being reviewed. The third suspect – a 15-year-old – is still being sought and has been described as “armed and dangerous”. After stealing from the store’s second floor, the three suspects were stopped by a female security officer. One of the suspects took a .25 caliber pistol, fired at her and into the crowd. The third suspect had been staying at the Stafford Arms hotel on the Upper West Side and had come to the U.S. in September, Chell said.
JD Sports executives declined to comment on Friday about any added security, counseling services for employees or funds for the victim.
Times Square, which stretches from 40th up to 53st Streets and from Sixth to Eighth Avenues, is a major shopping district and tourist destination. About 250,000 pedestrians passed through on average last week, according to Times Square Alliance 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 large companies, including chains such as Target, Walmart and CVS that have closed select locations due to the theft. The National Retail Federation reported that when taken as a percentage of total retail sales in 2022, the decline in retail sales accounted for a $112.1 billion loss, compared to $93.9 billion in 2021.
Times Square has a dedicated 137-person NYPD unit and two police precincts within its boundaries, and the police presence was slightly heavier 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 enjoying themselves today.”
Confident that the NYPD will catch the suspect and that he will be punished to the fullest extent of the law, Harris said there have been no other shootings at 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 that [New York City Mayor Eric] Adams administration to bring in the resources we need to keep people safe,” Harris said.
Harris, a 16-year veteran with the alliance, said he spoke to the manager of the hotel where the victim was staying, who had spoken to him on Friday. “He said she was in good spirits. Today is her last day in town and all she wanted to do was finish the shopping she was doing yesterday,” Harris said.
Pre- and post-holiday foot traffic to the Fashion District Business Alliance exceeded 2019 numbers, thanks in large part to tourists, according to president Barbara Blair. Last year the city attracted 64 million tourists. “The only problem is that there aren’t that many office tenants and that’s a problem for ground floor retail. When 20 percent of those people are missing, it has a big impact. But the bars are packed midweek during happy hour,” Blair said.
As of the end of September, 58 percent of Manhattan office workers were at work on an average weekday, and that’s only expected to rise to 59 percent on a long-term basis, according to the Partnership for New York City.
The neighborhood’s crime rate and street conditions have improved “dramatically” in the past three to four months, Blair said. Last year, robberies in Midtown South decreased by nearly 32 percent and thefts decreased by 38.2 percent compared to 2022, according to NYPD statistics. Also, the annual rates of murder and rape fell by 62.5 percent and 39.1 percent, respectively. Petty theft, however, increased by 17.6 percent in the area.
“We are on the right track. There is a lot going on with the police. One of the problems we have is with courts that don’t have it [always] lead to prosecution even when [some] people have [committed] multiple violations, felonies and summonses,” Blair said. “It’s not the police because [the robbers are sometimes] being arrested again and again. Judges don’t even keep them in some cases when the district attorney tried to keep some of them.”
Blair said she and “a Midtown BID group” [Business Improvement Districts] is advocating with state officials for legislation related to involuntary removal from the road if someone is a danger to themselves or others. “What we’re really trying to say to Albany is that individuals who don’t have the capacity to make health care decisions for themselves and are creating nuisances in the neighborhood that threaten or intimidate others in the neighborhood should get out of the way. And that doesn’t mean throwing them in jail or in an institution,” Blair said.