NYC business owner doubts criminals who looted her store will be punished: 'The system has failed us'

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A New York City business owner said on “Fox & Friends” on Monday that “no efforts were made” by New York City to find and arrest the looters who targeted her business during last year’s demonstrations that became a nearly nightly occurrence in the weeks after George Floyd’s death. 

“The system has failed us,” Jessica Betancourt, the owner of Bronx Optical Center, told host Steve Doocy, reacting to reports that district attorneys in Manhattan and the Bronx have dropped looting charges against hundreds of people arrested during last summer’s protests. 

Though many suspects were captured pillaging stores on surveillance footage – and others more brazenly bragged about looting in videos shared on social media – Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. reportedly hasn’t moved forward with prosecuting cases after more than 485 arrests were made during the looting that swept across the borough in early June. 

Vance Jr., whose office has instead been prioritizing preparing a case against the Trump Organization on allegations of tax, loan and insurance fraud, has dropped 222 of those looting cases, WNBC reported. There have been 73 convictions for lesser counts like trespassing which do not warrant jail time, NYPD data shows; 128 cases remain open and another 40 involving juveniles were sent to family court. 

Crowds – with officers and emergency services crews following behind them – engaged in what authorities have called planned property damage at the storefronts for upscale designers in Manhattan. 

But the damage also reached many locally owned stores in the Bronx, where at least 118 arrests were made in early June 2020. Yet, Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark has since dismissed 73 of those cases, according to figures obtained by WNBC. There have been 19 convictions for mostly lesser counts and eighteen cases remain open. 

Betancourt, the owner of an eyeglasses store looted along Burnside Avenue, told “Fox & Friends” on Monday that she thinks “it’s just disgusting” that dozens of cases were reportedly dismissed. 

“It’s outrageous the way we are getting treated,” she told Doocy. 

“No one made an effort to even come to the stores and say, ‘Can I get some surveillance? Can I get some fingerprinting?’ to see if we could catch these looters. No efforts were made by the city.”

Betancourt, who watched her store get destroyed by looters, noted that “it’s a free ride” and that people are getting the message that it is OK to engage in looting “because you are going to get away with it.” 

She noted that during the looting she did not feel protected by police. 

“I did arrive in the middle of the looting to see if I could get inside my store and cops told me ‘just go home. You have insurance and you’ll be fine. Just come back in the morning,’” Betancourt told Doocy, stressing that she had “no protection at all.” 

She stressed that she does not blame the New York City Police Department, but blames the city. 

Doocy noted that her insurance did end up helping her reopen and she has since reopened. 

He then asked her if she believes the city administration tied the hands of a lot of police officers during the looting. 

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“Absolutely,” Betancourt responded, noting that she blames city officials for not providing the NYPD with support. 

“They didn’t give them the go-ahead and make arrests, to stop these looters. They were told just to stand back,” she said. 

Patrice O’Shaughnessy, spokeswoman for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, told Fox News that the numbers are “not accurate.” She said there was just one night of looting and theft overnight from June 1 to 2, 2020. There were 90 total felony/ misdemeanor arrests that came into the complaint room – but 28 were outright dismissals, O’Shaughnessy said that another 14 were “adjourned contemplating dismissal,” where the case gets dismissed if the suspect does not get arrested again within the following six months. In that case, community service or another condition is completed instead. 

The remaining are either pending or the suspects pleaded guilty or were granted conditional discharge, according to O’Shaughnessy. 

“We went forward with the cases for which we had evidence and a complaining witness,” O’Shaughnessy said via email. “Some cases were dismissed but we held people accountable because we do not tolerate violence against Bronx business owners.”

Reacting to O’Shaughnessy’s statement, Betancourt stressed that “no efforts were made, period.” 

“Let’s be realistic. We were looted, nothing happened after that. We had to rebuild and we have to keep strong and they didn’t even reach out at all,” she continued. 

Fox News reached out to Vance’s office for comment, but did not immediately receive a response. 

Sources within the district attorneys’ offices told WNBC that courts being closed during the coronavirus pandemic created a large backlog of cases – and, in some instances, the evidence was not strong enough for proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  

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“We had to analyze each case individually and see if, in fact, we could prove the right person had committed the crime,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Andrew Arias reportedly said.

He reportedly added that follow-up investigations into looting were tedious and often involved tracking down either photo evidence or stolen property. He said investigators needed to analyze each case individually to see if they could prove the right person committed the crime. 

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this report. 

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