Community on edge

Bay Ridge and Bath Beach store owners are taking extra safety precautions in the wake of the murders of two local merchants in just as many months.

Mohamed Gebeli, 65, was killed in his business, Valentino’s Fashion at 7718 Fifth Avenue, on July 6. Nearly four weeks later, Isaac Kadare was gunned down in his store, Amazing 99 cents and Up Deals, at 1877 86th Street, on August 2. Both were killed shortly before the store closed, just before 9 p.m.

Both men were Egyptian-born – although Gebeli was Muslim and Kadare was an Orthodox Jew — and were fatally shot with the same .22 caliber gun. Coincidentally or not, the two addresses also share the same four digits. Police from the 68th and 62nd Precincts have increased patrols in the normally sleepy neighborhoods, with squad cars from out-of-area precincts on almost every block and officers walking the beat. A sketch of the suspect was released and is on almost every pole along the busy shopping corridors.

Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis held a press conference on August 8 with local business leaders to raise awareness of the free crime prevention programs offered by the 68th Precinct. Ilene Sacco, president of the 68th Precinct Community Council; Basil Capetanakis, vice president of the Fifth Avenue BID and Bob Howe, president of the Merchants of Third Avenue,urged area businesspeople to take advantage of the “completely free resource.”

Lighting in the area is also important. There are so many different things that they [merchants] can do,” Malliotakis said. We wanted to do this soon after National Night Out to continue to increase crime prevention and take a stand in our community.”

Sacco added, If you have a health problem, you’re going to see a professional. If you want to protect your business, you need to see a professional. We wanted to bring attention to these free programs, as a way to keep our community safe.”

Still, merchants are on edge.

Seth Kruchkow, who owns the 105-year-old Kruchkow’s Shoe Shop, a block away from Gebeli’s store, said he is making sure there are two workers present at closing and opening times.

“We always pull down the gate behind us,” he said. “I am very happy to see extra police presence in the area, especially during closing time.”

Anna, who works at Cigar Mini Mart, two blocks away on Fifth Avenue, said that she is closing up the store one to two hours earlier than normal.

“They were killed during daylight. We won’t stay after 7:30 p.m. and are putting up flyers,” she said. “But basically, it’s very scary.”

Over in Bath Beach, shopkeepers agreed.

“I need security. This guy killed two people already. He’s a psycho. Who knows if we are next?” said Jacob Niayzob, owner of a T-Mobile shop one block away from Kadare’s store. He contended that there has been an uptick of armed robberies in his neighbor’s businesses.

“There is lots of stuff going on here. There are lots of guys coming in and asking for money. When we refuse, they come in later and spill their drinks on my cases. They are rude,” he said. “It’s getting worse and worse every day.”

Additional reporting by Meaghan McGoldrick.

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