San Antonio Texas November 6 2022 Several brazen smash-and-grab burglaries are putting renewed focus on security at Historic Market Square.
The Trouble Shooters show you what’s made the tourist destination a softer target and what’s being done to keep it safe.
We combed through the new city budget and found, for the first time, there’s money set aside for a private security guard to patrol Market Square during the overnight hours.
The city calls it a proactive measure, but shop owners lament it didn’t happen soon enough.
With windows boarded up, shop owners are angry, frustrated and scared.
“You got all these emotions. It just upsets you,” says Lucinda Simmons from the Don Roman shop.
Four smash-and-grab burglaries in 48 hours were captured by security cameras last month. All took place during the overnight hours.
One video shows two men making plenty of noise as they bag up merchandise, including entire displays of jewelry. Another shows a burglar approaching a window with some kind of rod.
“They swung at it and then they broke the glass,” explains Greg Pena, president of the El Mercado Association.
His family’s owned shops at Market Square for 45 years.
“What you feel inside is just like something got ripped out of you, in a way,” Pena says.
Since the crime spree, the Trouble Shooters spotted a new overnight private security guard. The position is paid for through the new city budget. The addition means that Market Square now has security patrol 24 hours a day.
“It’s a start,” Pena says. “But I hope in the future, the city has a security team that will be looking into seeing what can be added on – another layer of security at the market.”
We learned the San Antonio Police Department has now arrested one of the two people believed to be responsible for most of the burglaries.
“This is like, the essence of downtown San Antonio,” SAPD spokesperson Sgt. Washington Moscoso says as we speak to him in a Market Square breezeway.
“Shop owners tells us that hiring this overnight security guard is a start, but they’d like to see more presence from SAPD. What commitment is SAPD willing to make to them?” reporter Emily Baucum asks.
“We have officers that are committed to this area, as well as park police. And we started to do undercover with our undercover – detectives on the bike patrol unit – operations in the Market Square to identify and deter crime in the area,” Sgt. Moscoso answers.
The undercover operation started Tuesday night, resulting in three arrests and four citations.
As for what’s sparking the uptick in crime, two things changed during the pandemic: more homeless activity, and the iconic Mi Tierra restaurant is no longer open 24 hours a day.
“We had a bigger presence just with officers stopping into eat when Mi Tierra was open 24 hours a day,” Sgt. Moscoso says.
“Why is the situation so dependent on a private business being open for overnight security?” Baucum asks.
“I wouldn’t say it’s so dependent on the business. I think when the business is open, you’re going to have more foot traffic,” Sgt. Moscoso explains.
Mi Tierra’s owners tell us the crime surge is heartbreaking, noting they’ve also been victims. They applaud the new overnight security measures and police presence, but caution in a statement: “These are great first steps, but we will need to relentlessly work together to keep downtown San Antonio safe.”
Since Market Square is a city facility, the El Mercado Association would like to see SAPD set up a permanent workspace here to give the family-owned shops more peace of mind.
“We’re all just small businesses and some of us have two jobs to just keep going,” Simmons says while tending to her store.
It’s been almost a month since the break-ins and the broken glass of impacted storefronts still hasn’t been replaced. The city says its contractor is still waiting on the necessary parts.