Adams and NYC Prosecutors Want to Crack Down on Retail Theft

reprints


New York City prosecutors and Mayor Eric Adams have a plan to crack down on retail theft after major retailers like Target have complained about massive revenue losses caused by shoplifters.

The plan includes allowing retailers to submit reports on repeat offenders to the New York City Police Department, create a neighborhood watch program for retailers, and start the Organized Retail Theft Task Force with retailers and business improvement districts to come up with more solutions.

SEE ALSO: New York’s $237B Budget Covers Growing Health, School Costs — For Now

While Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Philip Banks said the city would aid those “who steal out of necessity,” others shoplifting for profit would “feel the wrath of New York City.” Banks’s remarks came during a Wednesday press conference in which he and Adams announced the crackdown.

“There are those that are organized crime who picked up on the fact that these thefts were taking place and they zeroed in on paying boosters and individuals to go in and steal these items,” Adams said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s retail theft, or if it’s violent crimes, we just continue to see a pattern of repeat offenders that we want to go after and to tackle.”

The last five years have seen a 77 percent increase in retail theft in New York City, with the numbers growing by 41 percent from 2021 to 2022, according to the city. Adams said the city made more than 22,000 arrests for retail thefts last year, with 327 of them repeat offenders who made up 30 percent of the total arrests.

“Those 327 individuals were arrested more than 6,600 times for an average of 20 times each,” Adams added. “We cannot just allow recidivism behavior to harm our city.”

One approach the mayor will take is through what his office dubbed Re-Engaging Store Theft Offenders and Retail Establishments (RESTORE) in which nonviolent offenders can avoid jail time by accepting social services. 

Other components will provide retailers with kiosks that can connect people to government resources and create city programs to educate employees on de-escalation tactics.

More strict measures would allow retailers to submit reports on repeat offenders to the NYPD through what they’re calling the Precision Repeat Offender Program (PROP), which will help district attorneys make stronger prosecutions against those individuals.

The Adams administration will also ask state and federal lawmakers to enact some form of authentication for online sales that inventory was obtained legally so that stolen items are more difficult to sell, specifically on social media platforms.

In November, around the time the mayor’s office and prosecutors began brainstorming about a cure, Target reported that it had lost $400 million in 2022 from criminal enterprises lifting goods for resale in its stores nationwide, and was on track to lose $600 million by the end of the year for the same reason, Insider reported.

Target Chief Operating Officer John Mulligan said at the time that putting product behind lock and key was inconvenient for both the retailer and shoppers, but is a necessary evil if stores are going to stop the losses.

State Attorney General Letitia James said that much of the losses don’t stem from people stealing only the essentials they cannot afford. In one instance, her office revealed a major operation where a warehouse in Queens was stacked with goods from every department of the average store, including coffee and cosmetics.

“I know that prices are high, inflation has been cutting into paychecks and hard conversations have been had on a daily basis, but stealing is not the answer,” James said. “Our small businesses are already struggling with high cost and low profit margins piling onto lost revenue.”

Mark Hallum can be reached at mhallum@commercialobserver.com.