Delivery Workers Protest for More Protection After Robberies


Photo by Peggy Taylor.

Delivery workers protested at the intersection of 72nd Street and Broadway on Thursday, asking that more attention be paid to a series of e-bike thefts that have made it impossible to do their jobs. They rang bells and rode their bikes down to City Hall to continue the protest.

“We are asking for safety. A lot of guys are being robbed,” Melinda Gallpa, of the Worker’s Justice project, told the Daily News. The Worker’s Justice Project organized the protest. “Their bicycles are stolen, and some of them are almost $2,000. That’s why they’re here, why we organize,” Gallpa said.

There has been a pattern of e-bike robberies on the UWS recently: one robber knocks the rider down, another snatches his bike. Captain Neil Zuber of the 20th precinct recalled the dramatic arrest of one such thief in WSR in September. The 24th precinct also reported the arrest of more alleged e-bike robbers on Thursday.

Delivery workers have been agitated about the thefts for several days, protesting in front of the 20th precinct on 82nd Street last Thursday. Initially that protest was mistaken for a protest against police. At around 3:30 p.m. last Thursday, about 30 men who deliver food for a living throughout the neighborhood on bicycles gathered across the street from the precinct.

”They actually rode onto the block on their bicycles, with some of them blowing whistles,” wrote Captain Neil Zuber, in an email to WSR.

My first thought was that this was one of the anti-police protests, since they often use groups on bicycles to scout routes and block traffic. Initially, I directed all the officers in the building to man posts as stationhouse security, and to secure the building and adjacent parking lot. Within a minute or two it was obvious that they weren’t hostile towards us, based on their orderly behavior and the officers’ initial contact. We quickly asked if they had two or three people who wanted to act as spokesmen, invited them inside to talk, and asked the rest of the group to move onto the sidewalk to allow traffic to pass. Honestly, it wasn’t very dramatic after the initial surprise, and if it weren’t for the months of protests over the summer our surprise probably would have just been curiosity. We brought the three spokesmen into the Precinct to talk to them while the rest waited peacefully outside. One of the three spoke passable English, but we used a translator (police officer) who was one of the first to make contact with them in front of the stationhouse when they arrived. He is a patrol officer, PO Perez, and they were comfortable with him so we had him continue inside.

“All in all it was a very positive encounter,” Captain Zuber added. “We explained the importance of reporting crimes, and reporting them immediately to give us the best chance of catching the criminals and investigating fully. We walked them through the process, and they now know how to directly contact our Community Affairs officer for further outreach and assistance. They mentioned trying to hold a rally for awareness, and we offered to help, but we’ve not yet heard back.”

A peaceful gathering, with some signs.

Captain Zuber summarized by saying, “On the Upper West Side, while there are some actual robberies of e-bikes and possessions, the most common form of theft is actually their bikes while they are unattended. The delivery people, and most people for that matter, refer to the theft as being “robbed” but the crime classification is actually Petit Larceny or Grand Larceny based on property value since no force is used.

Across the street from the 20th Precinct.

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    1. Truth and Reason says:

      I appreciate Captain Zuber’s dedication to providing language access for these men. Quick factual point, though: Translation is written, interpreting is verbal. His officer was not translating written documents, he was interpreting a conversation. This may sound like a minor point for those outside the language industry, but as an officer of the law, Zuber may be interested to know the difference actually is a point of law, as determined by SCOTUS in Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific.

      Would he also use manslaughter and murder interchangeably?

    2. chrigid says:

      what bells were they ringing? I certainly haven’t heard any bicycle bells around the West Side.

    3. LivableCity says:

      Thanks for covering this WSR. Saw the protest from just too far to get the message. Good luck to the delivery folks and to the police – a tough kind of crime to challenge.

    4. Pat says:

      I work on 14th Street, and I saw (and heard) hundreds of them pass by yesterday afternoon on their bikes, raising awareness of the theft of delivery bikes. One carried a sign, which was helpful and how I knew what the issue was. I feel badly for these essential workers who are low paid and the victims of crime. I hope they get some justice and protection, and I hope everyone remembers to tip them very generously in cash so it goes directly to them and not through their employers.

    5. Adagio12 says:

      They should consider placing some small, inexpensive GPS enabled trackers on the bikes (e.g., some <$30). That would allow the owners and the police to have an idea where the bikes are being taken and/or used.

    6. Alan Oppenheim says:

      Perhaps now that these folks seem to be getting organized, they can also do something about adhering to traffic laws. Riding powered bicycles (they seem more like under under powered small motorcycles to me) on sidewalks; the wrong way on one-way streets; going through traffic lights; not wearing helmets; etc. is downright dangerous to say the least. Why are these not considered motor vehicles, and why don’t the traffic laws seems to apply? How many serious injuries and/or fatalities will it take for our police to take action to protect the delivery folks and the public?

      • Doug Garr says:

        I would feel more sympathetic if some of these guys followed the traffic laws. Barely a week goes bu when one almost hits me when I’m on the sidewalk. Snd they’re speeding along at a pace that cam easily injure pedestrians.

    7. Jean Siegel says:

      Thanks for all your care and concern DeBlasio.

    8. ST says:

      This is what happens when there are zero cops on patrol. Also when you have a dolt for a mayor who does not support the police.

    9. John says:

      I thought we were De-funding the police. When will the social workers investigate these robberies

      • Abdul Sayeed says:

        Keep riding that de-funding pony.
        It’s a great horse that will allow you to breeze pass every important issue!
        And it blows past “Examine The Budget Of” every time!
        “The right wing winner, once again, “Defund the Police,”
        paying 2.20, 2.10, and 2.05.”

    10. GG says:

      Bottomline…

      If your “bike” has a motorized engine you are a motorcycle and should be riding in the street following the rules of traffic.

      NOT in the bike lane and certainly not on the sidewalk. These guys are important to the community but that shouldn’t mean they get to zip around with complete impunity.

      Also should be required to have the same motor vehicle insurance since they are increasingly involved with serious accidents.

    11. Hambone says:

      This is a great lesson in peaceful protest. Definition. Unity of message. Critical mass. Engagement. Exchange. Hopefully…resolution.

    12. Lorene Farnsworth says:

      It’s awful for these guys, there is certainly no shortage of ne’er-do-wells in this city, it’s just sad that they’re concentrating their dastardly efforts among the hardest working among us right now.

      • Ye Olde Englifhe Teachere says:

        Re: “ne’er-do-wells … dastardly efforts….”
        And also the writer’s surname!
        For a moment it felt as if we all had been transported to the Victorian era!
        O.M.G. how delightful!

    13. SeekerG says:

      Parallel with educating delivery people to ride responsibly, I would encourage neighbors – if they can – to stand and watch over delivery bikes when they see them being parked. It’s only a few minutes and would show solidarity with these guys whom we depend on for our comfortable lives.

    14. good humor says:

      I hope the deliver guys are careful when they cross the drag strip formerly known as West End Avenue.

    15. Simon says:

      Let’s just be honest, there are like ZERO police around. Period. I have no idea why we are even paying them. Their presence, or should I say the lack thereof, is PREVENTING ZERO crime. Criminals know that the police are nowhere in sight and they know they will be long gone before police respond. The UWS is not that big but has lots of people. You can drive 30 blocks on ANY of the UWS’s avenues and not see a single cop or cop car (except for 72nd street/bway and lincoln center). Total waste. If we had NO police, I seriously doubt that the level of crime would be ANY worse. What are we paying for?

    16. Boris says:

      Maybe the delivery people should go back to using regular bikes instead of eBikes which are higher-prized targets in robberies. Seems like they all have eBikes now.