NEW YORK –In response to charges of racial profiling at Barneys, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said it’s a daily phenomenon for police officers to be called in by high-end retailers to investigate suspected shoplifting and credit card fraud.
“Police officers responding to major retailers in the city is an everyday occurrence,” Kelly said Friday. “In the 19th precinct, which is where Barneys is located, the number of grand larcenies has gone up 70 percent this year.”
Kelly’s remarks came days after City College of Technology student Trayon Christian, 19, filed a civil rights lawsuit against the NYPD and Barneys New York, claiming he was racially profiled while shopping at the Madison Avenue store.
Christian said the store and police targeted him back in April because they didn’t think he could afford a $349 Ferragamo belt.
Christian said he had just been paid from his work-study job when he went to Barneys to purchase the belt back in April.
After buying the belt using his Chase debit card, Christian’s attorney, Michael Palillo, said he was stopped less than a block from the store by undercover NYPD detectives.
Palillo said the officers told Christian they had received a call from Barneys telling them that the debit card he used to buy the belt was fraudulent.
Palillo said Christian was then handcuffed and taken to a police precinct where he was held for two hours. He was released after his bank verified his account and debit card.
Christian, who later returned the belt to the store, has filed a lawsuit seeking unspecified damages, claiming the incident has caused him great physical and mental distress.
Another shopper, 21-year-old Kayla Phillips, has filed a complaint with the city’s police watchdog agency, claiming she had a similar experience after buying a $2,500 Celine handbag in February.
JAY-Z NOW FEELING THE HEAT
The “shop and frisk” scandal, as some are calling it, is causing problems for hip hop artist Jay-Z, who has a lucrative deal with Barneys New York, CBS 2′s Lou Young reported.
“If he don’t step up then my respect for him is low. I like his music, yeah,” fan Juanita Landrau said.
There’s strong sentiment about Jay-Z at the Marcy Houses where he grew up. It’s a place where a lot of people have experienced the indignity that comes sometimes with “shopping while black.” Some want him to take a stand, but others said they already know what he’ll do.
“Probably do the deal and forget about it. Based on the person that he is, and we see because we live here,” said Bed-Stuy resident Lamar Ziegler, who added when asked if he thinks Jay-Z has forgotten the place, “Totally!”
“If they’re targeting minorities and he’s a minority, I think what he has to do is step up and put pressure on them as well,” resident Sheena Rue added.
Crisis management expert Rich Auletta told Young the rapper and the department store are running out of time.
“They got to do something. They just can’t let it sit there. This is taking off; it has legs,” Auletta said.
Auletta’s advice is for Jay-Z is to confront Barneys’ CEO and help him craft a response.
“I’d meet with the folks at Barneys and say ‘this is unacceptable, let’s do something that makes a difference and tell people you understand,’” Auletta said.
So far, that hasn’t happened. Jay-Z is currently in Europe on tour and Barneys’ CEO said the store is now conducting an internal review of practices and procedures.
In a statement, Barneys denied that it was involved in any detention, saying “after carefully reviewing the incident of last April, it is clear that no employee of Barneys New York was involved in the pursuit of any action with the individual other than the sale.”
“Barneys New York has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and we stand by our long history in support of all human rights,” the statement said.
The company has also retained a civil rights expert to review its policies and procedures and has reached out to community leaders to start a dialogue.
Kelly said the cases are under investigation.