Retailers push AGs for stricter punishments for 'out-of-control' shoplifting

Retailers push AGs for stricter punishments for ‘out-of-control’ shoplifting

Retailers are pushing lawmakers for stricter punishments against shoplifters as a crimewave sweeps the nation, including in New York City where a Rite Aid store in midtown Manhattan has closed its doors after having $200,000 worth of product stolen in just two months.

‘They come in every day, sometimes twice a day, with laundry bags and just load up on stuff,’ an employee at the now-shuttered Hell’s Kitchen drug store, which used to be open 24 hours, told the New York Post.

‘They take whatever they want and we can’t do anything about it. It’s why the store is closing. They can’t afford to keep it open.’

CVS has also been plagued by a 300 percent increase in retail theft since the pandemic began, Axios reported. 

In addition to petty theft, stores in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago are experiencing large numbers of brazen thefts, burglaries and looting by organized crime gangs.

Leaders in the retail industry – which was already hard hit by the impacts of the pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain interruptions – argue theft has gotten out of control and security guards have their hands tied, as they are told to ‘observe and report’ and not get physical with criminals.

Retailers and citizens alike are urging state attorney generals and Congress to take action by passing new legislation, stricter laws on bail reform and felony thresholds, and creating anti-shoplifting task forces. 

Crime has become so rampant that even the Rev. Al Sharpton has called on New York City Mayor Eric Adams to crack down on shoplifting, saying basic items such as toothpaste are now locked up at local pharmacies to try and prevent theft. 

A Hell's Kitchen Rite Aid store is closing its doors after $200,000 worth of goods were stolen in December and January. CVS was has been plagued by a 300 percent increase in retail theft since the pandemic began (Pictured: Empty shelves at an Upper East Side CVS in January)

A Hell’s Kitchen Rite Aid store is closing its doors after $200,000 worth of goods were stolen in December and January. CVS was has been plagued by a 300 percent increase in retail theft since the pandemic began (Pictured: Empty shelves at an Upper East Side CVS in January)

Retailers are pushing lawmakers for stricter punishments against shoplifters as a crimewave sweeps the nation, including in New York City (Pictured: Duane Reade in SoHo in October)

Retailers are pushing lawmakers for stricter punishments against shoplifters as a crimewave sweeps the nation, including in New York City (Pictured: Duane Reade in SoHo in October)

‘It’s out of control — it is just out of control,’ Lisa LaBruno, SVP of operations and innovation at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, stated.

The CEOs of nearly two dozen retail companies have called on Congress to pass the INFORM Consumers Act, which would require online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to verify sellers and allow buyers access to seller verification and contact information.

‘As millions of Americans have undoubtedly seen on the news in recent weeks and months, retail establishments of all kinds have seen a significant uptick in organized crime in communities across the nation,’ the store leaders wrote in a letter to Congress.

‘Leading retailers are concerned about the growing impact organized retail crime is having on the communities we proudly serve, which is why we strongly support the bipartisan and bicameral Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) for Consumers Act.’

The CEOs claim the INFORM Acts will ‘modernize consumer protection laws’ and protect community members from the sale of illicit products. They are urging Congress pass the bill quickly. 

Brian Dodge, president of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, told Axios in December that re-selling stolen goods online has become a ‘low-risk crime’ because thieves can sell the products to unsuspecting customers while ‘hiding behind fake usernames and untraceable email addresses rather than legitimate kinds of business information that any other operating business would have to provide — like a name.’

Attorneys general in California, Arizona and New Mexico are setting up anti-shoplifting task forces in an effort to combat crime. They are also re-evaluating their bail reform laws and felony thresholds.  

Retailers claim that although they ‘constantly invest in people, policies, and innovative technology to deter theft, criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers.’

The store leaders allege the trend is ‘hurting legitimate businesses who are forced to compete against unscrupulous sellers’ and and has ‘greatly increased consumer exposure to unsafe and dangerous counterfeit products’.  

The head of the New York City’s largest supermarket chain announced on Thursday that he is hiring extra security to crackdown on thieves, after a 50 percent spike in shoplifting. He blames bail reforms and the woke new policies of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg – who says he won’t prosecute some crimes and will downgrade others – for the uptick in shoplifting.

John Catsimatidis, owner and CEO of the Gristedes/D’Agostino’s, told DailyMail.com that he has become so frustrated with the authorities doing nothing to solve the problem that he is taking it upon himself. 

He says he has noticed a 50 percent spike in shoplifting across his stores in the last year, costing him ‘several million’ dollars. 

Catsimatidis said the thieves are not hungry homeless vagrants in need of meals or basic hygiene products, but are ‘professional criminals’ who often travel to the city from other states where they wouldn’t get away with the crimes. 

‘I love New York City and it has got to survive. We have got to put our foot down to make sure that it does survive. Enough is enough,’ he said. 

Catsimatidis will hire dozens of retired NYPD officers and security guards to stand in the doorways of his stores and sit in cars parked outside to deter thieves. He was vague on if they would become physical with anyone attempting to shoplift, and said they’ll do ‘whatever they have to do’ to protect customers and staff. 

Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis on Thursday announced that he is hiring dozens of security guards to deter shoplifters from his 30 Manhattan stores, where shoplifting has increased by 50 percent

Gristedes owner John Catsimatidis on Thursday announced that he is hiring dozens of security guards to deter shoplifters from his 30 Manhattan stores, where shoplifting has increased by 50 percent

Catsimatidis told DailyMail.com thieves will steal anything that isn't locked up and will sell it for bootleg prices at nearby bodegas

Catsimatidis told DailyMail.com thieves will steal anything that isn’t locked up and will sell it for bootleg prices at nearby bodegas 

There are more than 30 Gristedes and D'Agostino grocery stores around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The CEO says the shoplifting problem is 'everywhere'

There are more than 30 Gristedes and D’Agostino grocery stores around Manhattan and Brooklyn. The CEO says the shoplifting problem is ‘everywhere’ 

The Hell’s Kitchen Rite Aid, located near West 50th Street and 8th Avenue, is one of the retailer’s 63 locations that are closing across the U.S.

A company spokesperson told the Post that the closures represent about two percent of the retailer’s total locations, adding: ‘Like all retail businesses, we regularly review each of our locations to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers, communities and overall business.’

The spokesperson did not address shoplifting concerns, but a store employee told the news outlet they were instructed to tell customers the Manhattan location was closing in an ‘effort to cut costs.’ However, the staffer claims it was a theft-driven decision.

Rite Aid did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.   

Another Manhattan Rite Aid, located on the Upper East Side, is also scheduled to shut its doors on Tuesday. 

Last month, actor Michael Rapaport filmed a thief sauntering out of the Upper East Side store with two shopping bags full of stolen goods, calling it ‘pathetic’ that brazen crime continues to spiral in the Big Apple because of soft-on-crime policies.

Days later, the entertainer returned to the store, showcasing the empty shelves on social media.

‘Back in my Rite Aid,’ Rapaport said at the time. ‘And there’s nothing to steal because this Rite Aid like so many other Rite Aids is closing down because everybody stole everything.’ He added: ‘Congratulations, losers.’

Actor Michael Rapaport, who posted footage on Instagram of a bold thief going for a shoplifting spree in NYC last month, said he is 'disgusted' by the brazen crime striking the city

Actor Michael Rapaport, who posted footage on Instagram of a bold thief going for a shoplifting spree in NYC last month, said he is ‘disgusted’ by the brazen crime striking the city

The Rite Aid in the video, on 80th Street and 2nd Avenue, is hit with thefts of the same nature on an almost daily basis, a security guard told Rapaport Rapaport said in a video posted to his Instagram a few days later that 'there's nothing to steal because this Rite Aid like so many other Rite Aids is closing down because everybody stole everything'

The Rite Aid in the video, on 80th Street and 2nd Avenue, is hit with thefts of the same nature on an almost daily basis, a security guard told Rapaport. The actor returned to the store days later claiming: ‘There’s nothing to steal because this Rite Aid like so many other Rite Aids is closing down because everybody stole everything’

The Rev. Al Sharpton asked Mayor Adams this week to crack down on shoplifters after the civil rights leader saw basic items like toothpaste locked up at his local pharmacy. 

‘Eric, they’re locking up my toothpaste,’ Sharpton said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe as he gave a long and hard stare into the camera. 

‘You go into a local pharmacies – Duane Reade or Rite Aid, any of them – and you got to get someone to help assist you. They have the little button there, you hit the buzzer, the guy comes over, and unlocks your toothpaste – we’re talking about basic stuff here.’ 

Pharmacies like Duane Reade, CVS and Rite Aid have always locked up certain items, such as razor blades, but as more and more thieves are looting the shelves, stores have begun putting up extra protection.  

Industry leaders note that the thefts are not limited to store shelves, and that thieves are also striking warehouses and cargo trucks.

They claim teams of ‘boosters’ will pack a location with laundry bags, grab what they can and assault workers who confront them. Some stores have even reported employee fatalities. 

Reverend Al Sharpton, 67, slammed newly minted NYC Mayor Eric Adams for the extreme amounts of shoplifting in the city after his precious toothpaste gets locked up in pharmacies

Reverend Al Sharpton, 67, slammed newly minted NYC Mayor Eric Adams for the extreme amounts of shoplifting in the city after his precious toothpaste gets locked up in pharmacies

Sharpton's toothpaste has been locked behind locked doors in many local pharmacies, such as CVS (pictured in Manhattan), as so many stores have been hit with recent thefts

Sharpton’s toothpaste has been locked behind locked doors in many local pharmacies, such as CVS (pictured in Manhattan), as so many stores have been hit with recent thefts 

Industry leaders claim teams of 'boosters' will pack a location with laundry bags, grab what they can and assault workers who confront them (Pictured: A suspect accused of assaulting a police officer at a NYC Duane Reade in December)

Industry leaders claim teams of ‘boosters’ will pack a location with laundry bags, grab what they can and assault workers who confront them (Pictured: A suspect accused of assaulting a police officer at a NYC Duane Reade in December)

Retailers also allege the uptick in crime is tied to the ease of selling stolen goods on the internet, as well as the pandemic-fueled increase in online shopping.

On Wednesday, the New York’s soft-on-crime District Attorney Alvin Bragg announced that he is considering bringing harsher charges for certain types of thefts, especially for the ‘opportunists.’ The district attorney in Chicago is considering a similar measure.

The Big Apple has seen an incredible increase in crime, as overall crime up nearly 42 percent. 

The only major crime that is down is murder, with 12 percent less homicides happening this year. However, robbery, felony assaults, and shooting victims are up considerably at 13.3, 29.7, and 35.3 per cents, respectively. 

Retailers push AGs for stricter punishments for 'out-of-control' shoplifting The Big Apple has since an huge spike in crime, with overall crime up almost 42 per cent

The Big Apple has since an huge spike in crime, with overall crime up almost 42 per cent 

Transit crimes are also up almost 75 percent and even Adams has admitted the city’s subway system isn’t ‘safe.’ 

Discussions on how to handle New York City’s crime has even reached the federal level as President Joe Biden, 79, visited the the City That Never Sleeps last week – their discussion mainly focusing on gun violence. 

Adams met with Biden on February 3, who praised the mayor for his anti-crime agenda to bring down gun violence. 

The president vowed to be Adams’ ‘partner’ and wants to ‘help every major city follow New York’s lead.’ 

In a crackdown against ghost guns – where parts can be bought on the internet and would not be registered in databases – the president said the federal government will prosecute those who are caught with the weapon.   

The NYPD repossessed a large number of ghost guns last year. 

In addition, Adams announced earlier that part of his anti-crime plan is to increase the number of officers and bring back plainclothes cops. 

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