A Neighborhood Watch to Keep New York’s Delivery Workers Safe

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Seven nights a week, starting around 9:30, Vincent Carrasco cheers and whistles food delivery staff as they ride their bicycles across Manhattan after crossing the Queensboro Bridge. is he sending a message? “Someone is looking for you.”

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Mr. Carrasco also delivers food for a living, and he takes up his night outpost to make this section of East 60th Street feel less desolate, to prevent crimes against delivery workers, who have faced an increase in robberies. Is. On one evening last month, nine others joined him after planning to gather through groups on WhatsApp and Facebook.

It’s a scene that’s being repeated at different locations around the city where delivery workers say they feel most threatened. They set themselves up patrols as an inadequate response by the York Police Department to the increase in crime.

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“We need to unite for our own safety,” said Mr. Carrasco, 39, as he started the clock. “If we don’t do that, no one else will protect us.”

Mr Carrasco, originally from the state of Guerrero, Mexico, came up with the idea of ​​holding a watch group in April. He had just finished the delivery in the Sunnyside section of Queens when he saw two men standing in front of him in the middle of the street and panicked.

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Theft of electric bicycles, which the city’s delivery workers rely on – which can cost up to $3,000, or more than a month’s salary to replace some – was on the rise, and Mr. Carrasco feared. that he could be attacked. .

He turned and fled, and though he was not harmed, it bothered him that he had to work for fear of robbing him of something necessary for his livelihood. So he and a close friend of his, Jose Navares, planned to patrol the streets.

To recruit others, he spread the word through a Facebook page called “Delivery Boys en Axion NY” and a 250-member WhatsApp group. Several other similar groups exist on Facebook and WhatsApp, such as “Yo Soy Delivery Boy” and “El Chapin de dos Ruedas,” which means “Guatemala on two wheels.”

Patrols monitor dangerous areas, use apps to track stolen bikes and organize rallies, security drives and bike registration events. last month, New York Magazine Profiled a group that positions itself near the approach to the Willis Avenue Bridge, which connects Manhattan and the Bronx.

Delivery workers often cross city bridges, like many people in New York, to get to their jobs in Manhattan from their homes in other cities. Away from the relative safety of the city’s congested streets, the entrances and exits of bridges are isolated.

Robberies and other attacks on delivery workers have been on the rise since the early days of the pandemic, as restaurants closed and much of the city’s office work force homebound, leading to an increase in food delivery.

Police data shows that the number of electric bike thefts reported in 2020 doubled from a year ago. Reports of all types of thefts targeting delivery workers increased from 201 in 2019 to 332 in 2020. More than 270 thefts were reported before 7 September this year.

But many crimes go unreported, because bike delivery workers – often immigrants from Central America, South Asia and West Africa – are afraid to interact with authorities. An estimated 80 percent of employees are undocumented, said Hildlin Colon, director of policy and strategic partnerships for Los Deliveristas Unidos, an advocacy group.

Plus, employees don’t expect the police to do much even when they report theft. “A bike robbery is not at the top of the police priority list, and there is this frustration with the delivery personnel,” said Ms. Colon. “That’s why the delivery workers decided to take matters into their own hands.”

More than half of delivery workers say they have been victims of bike theft, with nearly 30 percent of workers saying they have been physically assaulted during the robbery. Survey that the Activist Justice Project and Cornell University Held from December to April. Nearly half said they were in an accident or accident during a delivery, and of those who needed medical care, three out of four said they would have to pay for it with their own money.

The survey, which interviewed 500 of New York City’s 65,000 delivery workers, also found that nearly half of respondents did not report bike robberies to the police, and 28 percent of respondents told the police to go to the authorities. had not filed a report.

“Among undocumented communities, there is a great deal of fear about reporting to law enforcement and what the consequences may be,” said Kim Ouillet, an employment attorney with the non-profit organization Legal Aid at Work. “There’s a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric and people are feeling that if someone finds out about their situation, they can be reported to ICE and they can be deported.”

In interviews, representatives of the York Police Department said it has increased patrols in parts of the city where bikes are more likely to be stolen, including northern Manhattan and Queens. He confirmed that the department did not inquire about the immigration status of the persons who filed the report.

Michael Lepetrie, head of the department’s crime control strategy unit, said although bike robberies have decreased slightly this year, they are “still at a level that is worrying.”

He said he encouraged the efforts of delivery workers to form a watch group. “We support those who want to keep their eyes and ears open for help,” Chief Leaptry said.

But both he and Rodney Harrison, the head of the department at the police department, urged activists to call the police if they saw a crime during one of their clock shifts.

“With regard to engaging in enforcement, let the professionals do it,” Chief Harrison said.

The boom in crimes against delivery workers led to the creation of Los Deliveristas Unidos or United Delivery Workers. The group was formed with the help of the Workers’ Justice Project, a non-profit organization that represents immigrants working in low-wage jobs and advocates for rights such as higher wages for delivery workers and better access to restaurant bathrooms. fights for

In late September, in a major victory for these efforts, the New York City Council passed legislation designed to improve conditions for workers employed by app-based delivery companies. In addition to setting a minimum wage level and providing access to restaurant bathrooms, the law empowers workers to decide for themselves how far they are willing to travel for orders, without fear of being penalized – and to specify whether they are willing to cross a bridge

But the package does not provide additional protection by law enforcement, and Mr Nevares said he did not think it was enough to stop the robberies. He said he would like to see a law that is similar to a law protecting Metropolitan Transportation Authority employees from assault, with up to seven years in prison for offenders.

In addition to living in fear of being robbed, Mr Navares said, many of his colleagues worry that their lack of English skills or their immigration status will make it difficult for them to obtain basic services, such as seeking medical attention if they need to. Get hurt an accident. So he also makes sure to discuss these topics with his colleagues during the watch shift.

“The Civil Guard group aims to reduce the number of robberies, but it is also about educating other delivery workers about their rights,” said Mr Navares, who is originally from the Mexican state of Morelos. “We are not just a number in an app. We are human.”

Mr Navares uses an app to track his fellow delivery workers throughout the day. He said WhatsApp group workers encourage new colleagues to buy GPS devices and share their locations so that other members can help keep them safe.

In the Facebook group, Mr. Carrasco posts when he and his colleagues have arrived at Queensboro Bridge to start the night shift. He was keeping an eye there on the day in early September when the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept over the city.

While he was on duty, his landlord called to inform him that his basement apartment in Queens was flooded. Mr. Carrasco is living with Mr. Neveres, while their apartment remains uninhabited.

“All I wanted was to go home after that shift and drink something hot,” said Mr. Carrasco. “But I had to get wet.”

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