Mayor Thomas M. Menino today condemned the "callous" and "unconscionably wrong" killing of a 71-year-old store clerk during a robbery in Uphams Corner and vowed to help small shop owners to increase security.
"Yesterday was a terrible day," Menino said this afternoon as he offered condolences to the family of Gerardo Serrano, who was shot and killed during a robbery at the Hermanos Unidos grocery store on Dudley Street. "This is over a [small] robbery. To take a person's life over" a small amount of money.
The city launched a program today to help corner shops and bodegas protected employees from violence. Commercial robberies are up only slightly from last year, but Serrano's death was the second killing of a store clerk in recent months.
City officials will visit small stores and provide security assessments free of charge, looking at the locations of cash boxes, how people are buzzed in and out of secure areas, security cameras, silent alarms, and more. Menino specifically mentioned a city ordinance that requires a clear view of a cash register from the street. Many shops violate this regulation by plastering advertisements on windows, he said.
"What I want to do is bring these folks together in small groups to educate them -- what we can do, what they can do -- to make things safer," Menino said.
Merchants along Dudley Street in Uphams Corner were still in shock this morning. “Everybody’s scared, it’s a bad area,” said Mohammed Bendahgane, of Jerusalem Furniture. “You have to close early, you have to watch who comes in, you have to leave early. It’s bad now.”
Serrano had worked at the Hermanos Unidos grocery and convenience store for more than three decades. Police said that two men, one dressed in black, one dressed in red, entered the store at about 10:30 a.m. and demanded money. At one point, Serrano was shot. He was brought to the Boston Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Police said the shooting remains under investigation.
Merchants along Dudley Street, which bridges Dorchester and Roxbury, said this afternoon that they have been concerned with crime, but never expected this.
“We try to keep it safe,” said Sandro Chantre, of Spots Cleaners. “It could be here. It’s really crazy.”
The city may offer grants or low interest loans to help very small businesses defray some of the costs of increasing security. Menino urged small shop owners to call 617-635-4500 to request a security assessment.
"I know some business can't afford it," Menino said. "So we are going to try to put a package together to help them … There are thousands of businesses. We aren't going to be able to help them all, but we are going to prioritize."
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