Calling New York City’s 44% jump in retail theft in the last five years unacceptable, Mayor Eric Adams Wednesday released a comprehensive plan to combat the problem across the five boroughs.
City officials enlisted shop owners, retail industry groups, business improvement organizations, social service agencies and law enforcement to develop a plan to prevent rising theft in stores, which they say has ultimately led businesses to close in many parts of the metropolitan area.
Asked to provide the dollar value of stolen goods from New York stores, Adams told reporters, “It’s a lot.”
According to the National Retail Federation, in 2021 organized retail crime nationally accounted for nearly half the $94.5 billion in shrink, which is the loss of physical inventory caused by a variety of reasons. The overall shrink rate from 2016 to 2021 remained steady at 1.4% of annual sales, according to that report.
In New York, the focus is not just on preventing loss or recovering goods, but also on improving quality of life for store associates and customers, and the communities served by grocers, bodegas, pharmacies and other retail establishments.
“When people say that this is not an issue — when Mrs. Jones needs to get her prescription filled, and she cannot walk down the block, but she must take the bus blocks away, that is impacting the quality of life of people,” Adams said. “So this is impacting the quality of life of everyday New Yorkers, and we're just not going to accept it.”
The new plan involves determining the reasons behind each theft in order to steer people toward substance abuse and mental health programs, food assistance and other poverty relief, or the criminal justice system. The city has invested $9 million in a program to connect people to social services, often instead of arresting them for shoplifting, according to a recent report.
Otherwise, law enforcement has begun zeroing in on repeat offenders, who often steal goods for resale on online platforms and elsewhere. In 2022, New York police made more than 22,000 retail theft arrests and 327 repeat offenders were responsible for nearly a third of them, Adams said. This year so far, 250 people have been arrested almost 2,500 times, and 70% are repeat offenders, NYPD Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri said during the press conference.
This year, arrests for retail theft are up 20%, detectives are following through more often, and retailers are calling 911 more often, Lipetri said.
”Retail theft doesn't just strike at the heart of our economy, it strikes at the heart and livelihoods of New Yorkers. We should not, we cannot and we will not tolerate it.,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III. “In this plan, we've recognized — and this is what happens when you bring everyone together— there are people who steal out of necessity. The plan is how to give them their resources. And there are people who will steal because they’ve organized crime, and they should feel the wrath of New York City.”