Albanians Puzzled by News of NYPD Surveillance

Albanian Locations of Concern Report screenshot

Screenshots taken from NYPD documents released by the Associated Press.

On the heels of revelations that the New York City Police Department spied on Muslims — including college student groups — the Albanian community has reacted with anger and puzzlement to news that the same NYPD dossier, obtained by the Associated Press, chronicles undercover surveillance of Albanian-owned businesses and organizations in the Bronx and the rest of the city in 2006.

Plainclothes officers in the Demographics Unit photographed and frequented local restaurants and shops, but found no specific threats. The Riverdale Press spoke to the owners of some of those businesses — near Belmont and Arthur Avenue in Belmont — who said that much of the information in the document was incorrect.

Semi Erovic, the owner of Dino’s European Hair Styling in Norwood, said the police even had his background recorded incorrectly.

“It’s sick, because somebody’s spying on you while you’re just doing your business,” he told the Riverdale Press. “If I was asked, I would have said, ‘I’m not Albanian. I’m from Montenegro but I’m not Albanian.'”

Police also apparently got the “King of Burek’s” religion wrong.

At Tony and Tina’s Pizzeria, an Arthur Avenue spot known for its Albanian burek — similar to a stuffed pizza — owner and self-proclaimed “King of Burek” Phil Kajtazi said he was surprised that his business was on a report that highlighted the area’s Muslim institutions.

“These are misleads. It’s like a detective trying to crack a case, but he’s looking at the wrong things. I don’t understand how they got this. I’m Catholic,” Mr. Kajtazi said, before noticing a neighbor’s business on the report. “He’s Catholic, too.”

Still, some of the Albanians told the Riverdale Press that they have no objection to the police monitoring businesses and individuals.

Despite his surprise at being profiled, Mr. Kajtazi said the NYPD is free to watch his business.

“I don’t think nothing of it. I don’t sell drugs, I don’t deal drugs. I have a legitimate business,” Mr. Kajtazi said.

Down the street at Malësia Tours, a travel agency cited as a location of concern, Dëde Dedvukaj expressed a similar sentiment.

“It’s good to keep control, so people don’t do bad things. It’s a normal thing; they should know exactly what’s going on in society. They should try to keep as much concern as possible,” Mr. Dedvukaj said.

Back at Dino’s European Hair Style, barber Miki Erovic — Semi’s brother — said he thinks police should have to have a specific reason to spy on any individual or business.

“It’s not right, I don’t think it’s right, to just watch people who have done nothing,” Mr. Erovic said.

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