Residents have become aware of the increase in smoke shops in our community.
However, if you traverse other neighborhoods in Brooklyn – and the entire city – you’ll find that these “unsavory” businesses are popping up everywhere! What many consider “shady” and “crime-inducing” shops was one of the topics at the quarterly Build the Block meeting held on Thursday, October 20th, where the 69th Precinct’s Sector B Neighborhood Coordination Officer (NCO) Yhayh Saleh hosted the highly-attended Zoom session.
With hookah lounges and smoke shops growing in popularity, Canarsie residents say these shops – like the one at Rockaway Parkway near Avenue M – attract theft, among other criminal activity, and shady characters.
NCO Saleh admitted that, overall, the NYPD has no say in the regulation of where or how smoke shops operate.
“You can call the community board or your elected officials and try to address these issues,” the officer said. “But, unlike businesses like bars and clubs that require local input when they apply for liquor licenses, there’s no advisory process of community voting against them or opposing the owners of those establishments. They don’t need anyone’s approval to start these smoke shops.”
Fresh Creek Civic Association President Maria Garrett shared her knowledge of the issue, echoing the sentiments that smoke shop owners do not have to come before a community board.
“These are hot spots for criminal activity like robberies and shootings,” the civic leader said. “But those shops can operate under As-of-Right laws – they don’t need to let anyone know what’s going on or where they’re popping up – even if they’re on every block.”
Regardless of the stipulations, residents want enforcement and boundaries set by politicians as more crimes occur in the vicinity of these businesses.
Saleh also gave his quality of life report to over 50 attendees on the call. He went over a few crimes patterns that have plagued Sector B – the southeast portion of the precinct, which spans from Flatlands to Seaview Avenues and from East108th Street to East 94th Street.
“There was recently a male going around to random homes and putting his hands in mailboxes – feeling for envelopes with credit cards and possibly checks inside,” Saleh said. “He would even swap residents’ mail with junk mail. Luckily, our patrol units responded to a call when a homeowner saw video footage of the suspect going through their mailbox and we caught up with him. The best thing to do is get a lockbox for your mail – have some type of protection in case you see someone trying to go through the mail.”
The NCO also shared some business updates with the community, stating that the unsightly, shuttered Rite Aid on Seaview Avenue doesn’t have any takers yet and the HSBC Bank – across the street also at Seaview Avenue and the corner of Rockaway Parkway – won’t be occupied soon.
“There was supposed to be another business opening up at the site of the bank, but I spoke to the property manager and the person who was looking to move in pulled out of the deal – but there is construction going on in the lot, so maybe something is in the works that will soon be public,” he said.
Build the Block meetings for each of Canarsie’s four sectors take place on a quarterly basis and provide residents with updates on quality of life issues. Officers welcome feedback from all attendees and share their contact information with those who have issues they would like to address in a more confidential manner. For the date of your Build the Block meeting – and the boundaries of each sector – visit Twitter at: @NYPD69Pct.