Legislation would require small businesses across state to offer “safe haven” to endangered children and youth
State Senator Luis Sepulveda and Assemblyman Victor Pichardo announced Tuesday, July 10, introduction of “Safe Havens for Endangered Children” legislation that would require all small businesses to call police when a child or young person in danger seeks help from them.
The proposed law, to be known as “Junior’s Law,” comes after Bronx 15-year-old Lesandro (Junior) Guzman-Felix was dragged from a bodega where he had sought refuge and stabbed to death by members of a violent street gang that had been chasing him, all caught on video.
Joined by the slain youth’s family members, clergy and community leaders at a press conference outside the bodega where the teen was murdered, Senator Sepulveda and Assemblyman Pichardo said the Safe Havens bill would also amend the education law to help create “Safe Walking Home Zones” by having school officials work with local chambers of commerce to create safe pathways to and from schools.
A second piece of legislation would also require small businesses to keep first aid kits.
“While the bodega owner where the incident occurred did try to help, and did call 911 twice, according to police, we want to make sure that any business owner or their employees who encounter a situation involving a minor who has been abused or may be in danger has a duty to try to help,” said Senator Sepulveda. “Community businesses should be safe havens for our youth. They should promptly notify police.”
“The murder of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz has devastated our close-knit Bronx communities,” said Assemblyman Pichardo. “While I applaud the New York City Police Department for swiftly apprehending the suspects, we as legislators must do more to address the scourge of gang violence that has claimed far too many lives here in the Bronx and across our state. The safety of our children and families is always paramount and I’ll do everything I can to get violent gang members off our streets.”
The slain teen’s father, Lissandro Guzman, speaking in Spanish, said “I feel very content, and with all my heart, I hope this bill that carries son’s name gets passed so it can prevent situations like this from happening again, and so we can create more security for our beloved children.”
Depending on the situation, if a business with fewer than 50 employees fails to “provide a safe refuge for a child who had physical injury inflicted upon him or is in imminent danger of such injury until authorities arrive,” the business would be subject to penalties to be determined by the commissioner of the state Office of Children and Family Services.
Sepulveda said that he and Assemblyman Pichardo are still looking at what potential fines or other sanctions might be imposed.
The bill to require first aid kids in small businesses would amend state labor and public health laws to require small businesses with fewer than 50 employes to have and maintain a first aid kit on the premises at all times. Compliance would be checked during regular health or safety inspections of the building and business.
“We need to ensure that businesses are equipped to help those who are injured to save lives,” said Senator Sepulveda.
Twelve alleged members of the Trinitarios gang are now under arrest in connection with the June 20 attack. They face charges of murder, manslaughter, gang assault and criminal possession of a weapon, according to police.