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For merchant, 3 burglaries hurting more than profits

By MICHAEL MAHARREY, Neighborhood News Bureau
Published August 12, 2007



That is how Mahmoud Fari described his feelings after the store he owns was burglarized three times in nine days.

"I am here to serve this neighborhood, and people are retaliating with no respect," he said.

Fari is the owner of Suit World, a men's clothing store at 1754 22nd St. S, in the Tangerine Plaza. Between July 14 and July 23, the store was burglarized three times. Nearly $15,000 worth of merchandise was stolen, Fari said.

Fari opened the store with his brother nine months ago. They decided to locate in Tangerine Plaza despite the risk of crime, because their customers live in the area, he said.

Fari is frustrated with the rash of burglaries, but he does not want to put the neighborhood in a bad light.

"This is just a few people," he said. "I have some very, very good customers."

And he has no intention of leaving.

"I'll come right back at them. I won't leave. I'll press charges and prosecute," he said. "This is basically my property; I'm not going anywhere."

While violent crime is often reported, burglary and other property crimes receive little media attention. There were 3,466 burglaries reported in St. Petersburg in 2006, according to the St. Petersburg police. That's an average of about 10 a day.

The cost of property crime, which includes burglary, theft, larceny and auto theft, is significant. In 2005, the most recent data available, $16.5-billion was lost nationally, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

Sweetbay, which anchors the Tangerine Plaza, has experienced the effects of property crime. Between 40 and 50 percent of their inventory losses are due to shoplifting, store manager Tony Brown said.

"It hits your budget and profits," he said. "It's pretty significant."

But, the impact of property crime is not all monetary.

"It makes you a little scared," Fari said.

"It's close to home. It affects the perception of our customers," Brown said. "They know what's going on. It affects the whole plaza."

The plaza is an important part of the neighborhood and limiting crime is essential to its success, said Officer Marlin Heyward of the St. Petersburg Police Department. There will always be crime, he said, but the police want to address it immediately.

"It is important to have closure," Heyward said. "Once people see an arrest, it becomes a matter of cause and effect. When people perceive they will be caught, it will deter future attempts. That's what we hope for."

An arrest has been made in two of the Suit World burglaries. An investigation of the third is ongoing, said Bill Proffitt of the St. Petersburg Police Department.

While the monetary effects of the burglaries on his business and the plaza concern Fari, it really comes down to a matter of respect, he said.

"If you don't want to shop with me, fine," he said. "But leave me alone. Respect yourself and respect your community."

Michael Maharrey is a reporter for the Neighborhood News Bureau, a program of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He can be reached at (727) 327-2129.

[Last modified August 11, 2007, 23:09:52]

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