Retailers across New York State are grappling with the persistent and growing problem of organized shoplifting rings, leading to substantial financial losses, potential store closures, increased consumer expenses, and safety concerns for store employees.
In 2022, retailers lost approximately $4.4 billion due to rampant retail theft, emphasizing the urgent need for Governor Kathy Hochul to take decisive action.
Governor Hochul’s recent veto of a bipartisan bill aimed at creating a task force to combat shoplifting has concerned store owners. The proposed task force, consisting of 15 members appointed by the governor, Legislature, and the state attorney general, would have formulated recommendations to address this critical issue.
The Retail Council of New York State, a statewide lobbying group representing retailers, expressed extreme disappointment with the governor’s decision.
Melissa O’Connor, the president and CEO of the Retail Council, urged the governor to take immediate action, emphasizing the importance of an effective and collaborative response to the problem.
O’Connor stated, “She made it abundantly clear that retail theft prevention will be a priority for her administration, and we look forward to working with her to achieve results.”
One key reason for Governor Hochul’s veto was the estimated cost of $35 million, which was not allocated in the recent budget.
However, earlier this month, Mayor Eric Adams took action by forming a task force aimed at combating the rising issue of shoplifting. The task force’s primary objective is to facilitate seamless information sharing among city agencies regarding criminal activities.
Law enforcement officials across the state, from New York City to Albany to Syracuse, have reported a surge in incidents of shoplifting. They attribute this increase to progressive prosecutors who are considered to be lenient on shoplifters, encouraging criminal behavior.
Syracuse Police Chief Joe Cecile highlighted the alarming situation in his city, stating, “That number is likely higher because businesses often don’t report it — but they do continue to express concerns.”
Cecile told WSTM-TV last month that small businesses are struggling to survive in the face of this rampant shoplifting campaign, with one local pharmacy chain in Syracuse alone suffering losses exceeding $250,000 per year.
The Council on Criminal Justice reported a 64% increase in reported incidents of retail theft in New York City over four years. The NYPD revealed that petty larceny cases had risen by 29% compared to two years ago but were 5% lower compared to the same period last year.
Approximately a third of all shoplifting arrests in the city last year were attributed to 327 individuals, collectively arrested and re-arrested more than 6,000 times.
These alleged shoplifters targeted 18 department stores and seven chain pharmacy locations, accounting for 20% of all complaints.
A September survey by the National Supermarkets Association (NSA) revealed that 93% of supermarkets in the five boroughs have experienced shoplifting incidents this year. Moreover, 60% of these supermarkets reported being targeted by burglars every day of the week.
The survey conducted by the NSA also indicated that 72% of supermarket owners have taken steps to enhance their security measures. Despite these efforts to bolster security, many shop owners continue to grapple with daily shoplifting incidents.