Members of the East Flatbush community, largely Caribbean immigrants, were shocked by a recent spat of burglaries at the Sesame Flyers Youth and Cultural Center, a non-profit that caters to children and families in the Brooklyn area.
The organization, entering its 28th year of operation, is a staple in the Caribbean community. Sesame Flyers’ band recently garnered the title of “Band of the Year” in the West Indian American Labor Day Parade.
The burglaries occurred in two separate incidents on the nights of Wednesday, September 14th, and Saturday, September 17th. Computers, televisions, sound systems and electronic equipment and cash were stolen. The equipment had been in use by Sesame Flyers’ educational division.
“I wish I had known. The people in the community should know what’s going on around them,” said Dawn Williams, 50, owner of Caribbean Sunshine Fruit Shop, which is located only a few steps away from Sesame Flyers. “Around here, I’ve learned that you always have to be cautious.” She pauses to bring down her hatchet, cracking open a coconut for a customer. “Trust nobody.”
The neighborhood, a part of the 67th Police Precinct, has seen 296 cases of burglaries in the past year, according to the weekly CompStat Report. This is a 6.9 percent increase from last year’s total of 277. Shopkeepers employ various means of security, everything from guard dogs to metal gates to camera systems. But some worry their security measures will not be enough to deter thieves.
Orin Johnson, 48, who heard about the burglary from a friend, expressed concern for his place of work, Back Home Bakery. As he serves Coconut Drops and Pine Tarts to a seemingly endless stream of local customers he says, “We have to worry. If someone breaks in they could take everything we own.”
The 67th Precinct sends out an electronic newsletter every 3rd Thursday informing residents of recent criminal activity. For shopkeepers, especially those without Internet access, that is not enough. As it stands, the majority of shopkeepers learn information from word of mouth. Customers come in with news and word spreads, albeit slowly. Often times, the news spreads inaccurately.
Many shopkeepers don’t have the means to afford sophisticated security systems, and are forced to rely on their employees as the ultimate protectors. Vigilance is their number one resource against possible danger.
“We have cameras here,” said Joyce Rose, 21, an employee at M-A-S Deli & Grocery, pointing to a miniature plastic orb affixed to the wall, “but other than that, we have nothing.” When asked if she had heard of the recent burglaries, she simply shrugs. “No, I haven’t heard, and I don’t really care to hear about it.”
The burglaries, however, failed to dampen the celebratory mood at the Sesame Flyers Youth and Cultural Center. This year’s win by their band at the Labor Day Parade marks the 12th in their history. In a statement released by Sesame Flyers, chairman Raymond Luke stated, “The burglaries may have momentarily rattled some nerves, but by pulling together as a team we have been able to put all our operations back up.”