Acropolis Pizza House increases security measures to avoid closure
Sam Maller | Asst. Photo Editor
The city of Syracuse threatened to shut down Marshall Street staple Acropolis Pizza House unless the facility takes steps to increase security.
Recently, the area has become a hot spot for crime and violence, with three arrests taking place in or near the establishment in the last two years. In response, the city of Syracuse, under a nuisance abatement law, has asked that Acropolis make changes to alleviate these issues.
The nuisance abatement hearing on Dec. 11 will decide Acropolis’ fate.
“I hope everything goes OK. I worry because I depend on my business,” Acropolis owner Peter Mavrikidis said. “I’m not a guy that can go get retired; I like to work. The day I work, the next day I die, that’s my happiness. If I’m 80 years old, I want to work.”
Acropolis has begun taking steps to prevent future problems, such as installing a more sophisticated security system and also hiring a security guard who works Friday and Saturday nights from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., Mavrikidis said.
Mavrikidis was also asked to close his store at an earlier hour to prevent crime, but said he can’t because it will hurt business. Forty percent of the restaurant’s sales come between 11 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., he said.
“They say, ‘No, it won’t hurt you.’ I know it’s going to hurt me,” Mavrikidis said.
The abatement was ordered in response to three crimes resulting in arrests. Though there have been several incidents near the restaurant, only three have resulted in arrests, said Deputy Chief Joe Cecile of the Syracuse Police Department.
The three incidents were a marijuana possession, sale of alcoholic beverage to a minor and a weapons charge in which shots were fired and a handgun was recovered, he said.
In a nuisance abatement hearing, officers present at the scene of the crimes testify, and business owners and their attorneys explain what they’ve done to alleviate the issues in the last 30 days. A hearing officer is assigned to the case and is present for the hearing’s duration, Cecile said.
The hearing officer then looks over the information and gives a recommendation to the chief of police, who makes a decision, he said.
To prevent closure, Acropolis must demonstrate that it has taken steps to address the issues cited in the notice. Usually, Cecile said, a notice contains four or five suggestions.
Cecile said it was suggested that Acropolis install a new security camera system, post signs regarding loitering and also provide employees with additional training regarding the sale of alcoholic beverages.
“The ultimate goal is not to close down, it’s just to abate the nuisance,” he said.
Since SPD and Syracuse University’s Department of Public Safety increased patrols in the area of Marshall Street, Cecile said, the departments have seen less crime in the area, which he said is natural.
But, he said, having an increased number of officers patrolling is “unsustainable” and the police departments must look for other ways to solve these problems.
Ariel Tavakoli, a sophomore undeclared major in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he feels if Acropolis is required to increase its security, all of the restaurants and stores on Marshall Street should have to do the same.
“I think it’s stupid,” he said. “It’s not Acropolis’ fault.”
Jack Manilow, a sophomore sport management major, agreed that Acropolis wasn’t solely to blame for the crime in the area.
“Acropolis has nothing to do with crime. It’s just a pizza place,” he said.
In all of his years at Acropolis, Mavrikidis said he has never seen anything like this. He has seen worse crime than this, but he has never seen such a response from police.
Mavrikidis said he doesn’t understand how he has become responsible for the actions of his restaurant’s patrons.
“If people come into my place to pick up a slice, I don’t know. I can never tell who’s bad and who’s good,” he said. “And I cannot say, ‘You’re bad, you go, you cannot come in.’ Unless you cause trouble, I call the police. That is my only solution. What else can I do?”
But since Acropolis became a target, Mavrikidis said he’s no longer comfortable calling the police, as he feels it only ends in being blamed for the problem.
“I’m afraid to call the police. If two people walk in and they don’t buy anything and start fighting, I’m responsible,” he said.
The police need to look for the criminals at the source, not at the endpoint, Mavrikidis said.
Despite Mavrikidis’ frustrations, he has taken steps to accommodate the suggestions provided in the notice. He doesn’t want to fight the city or the police. He just wants his restaurant, which has been open for 30 years, to stay open.
“I will do what they tell me, but I will never have peace in my heart,” he said. “I believe this is not decent. What they’re doing is not decent.”
Published on November 15, 2012 at 3:03 am