Kenneth Giddon has owned Rothman’s menswear store in Manhattan with his brother Jim Giddon for 36 years. Last month, the store in Union Square was robbed twice by looted smashing gangs who terrorized employees and left with thousands of dollars in merchandise. An intrepid Kenneth Giddon tells Postens dean Balsamin that Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg and other NYC Poles might give up on crime, but he will never surrender to thieves and thugs.
My store on 18th Street and Park Avenue South was searched / robbed by the same group of young men, twice in the last three weeks of December. I’m not quite sure what the term is when a gang of thieves (five first time, eight second time) rudely tear a store apart, assault an employee, and seize as much goods as they can carry. They were not particularly worried about their actions, and thought that a repetition performance, as there were no consequences, was a good idea.
I have a number of emotions. I’m embarrassed that we’re letting this happen, especially twice, even though I know it’s something irrational. I feel offended that something that we spent so much time creating, curating and beautifying for our loyal customers can be torn up in minutes. I also feel guilty that I was not there to protect my team or change the result in any way.
For the first time in over three decades, owning my store, I wake up at night trying to work out what it means for my business and ultimately the city I love.
We called the police both times, but the group was long gone before any help was reached. We have moved forward to increase our security and the police have been very good at adding patrols and cover in our area.
The responding officers were professional and sympathetic. They said it was happening all over the city, but their message was very clear: Do not engage you, the perpetrators probably have weapons, and even if you stop them or we arrest them, nothing will happen. You will waste your time in the system and they will not be penalized. So where does that leave us?
Police said: ‘We have to catch these guys… but do not expect these guys to have time. It’s discouraging.
I’m not an expert in criminal justice or reform. I’m just a guy selling pants.
The bail reform in NY State, though well-intentioned, has been very bad for New York City. Too many people who should be imprisoned are not. The ability of the perpetrators to rob my store, get arrested and come back the next day to do it again tears at the structure of this city.
I like the message that the new mayor Eric Adams delivered.
That message, however, was undermined by the subsequent note from DA Bragg that he would reduce the charges for a number of crimes. I know he was not the prosecutor at the time of our incidents. But the note was a blow to the stomach.
DA Bragg needs to realize that perception is reality. If New Yorkers feel insecure, the city will struggle to come back. If criminals feel that law enforcement is lax, they will commit more crimes.
My employees are like family to us. They build their careers with us. No one should have to go to work and think they could be involved in an assault that day.
DA Bragg was elected to enforce the laws, not choose which ones he wants to enforce.
Not protecting businesses is basically a regressive tax on retailers: financial losses combined with additional security costs and higher insurance premiums. Shoplifting and gang theft are rising dramatically in NYC. Bail reform and less prosecution allow criminals to go back to what they are best at, many times in the same day, brave and without missing a beat.
But we do not give up.
Rothmans have survived 9/11, Superstorm Sandy, the financial crisis of 2008, the pandemic and looting during the riots. In fact, we just opened another store on Ninth Avenue. So we are in the long run.
I am encouraged by the fact that DA heard about our situation and contacted me directly this week. We had a constructive conversation and discussed the formation of a task force of retailers and law enforcement experts to deal with the situation.
We believe that the mayor and the DA must, and in the long run will, come to the same side about law and order. Then we can just return to what we are best at – selling clothes to New Yorkers.
We want to go to work today, still love, but sometimes hate, the biggest city in the world.