Brazen shoplifters, some of them operating in violent, organized gangs, are hurting retailers already reeling from COVID, supply and labor shortages, and inflation.
Just after the LA Rams won the Super Bowl on Sunday, shoplifters looted several shops in Downtown Los Angeles. The incident is not a one-off, as shoplifting incidents across the country have been steadily increasing for months.
Some drug-store chains, including Rite Aid, are closing hard-hit stores, sending terrified employees home in cabs, and locking up aisles of everyday staples items like shampoo and toothpaste, Axios reports.
Even worse, in the San Francisco Bay Area, one retail theft ring made off with more than $8 million in goods from CVS, Target and Walgreens. A mob of 80 people executed a smash-and-grab at a Nordstrom store in the Bay Area in November, according to NBC News.
At another high-end mall, multiple thieves dodged right past security guards in the White Plains suburb of New York, to steal from a Louis Vuitton store.
‘Out of Control’
Lisa LaBruno, SVP of operations at the Retail Industry Leaders Association, tells Axios the shoplifting scourge in the U.S. “is just out of control.”
A Rite Aid employee in midtown Manhattan tells The New York Post: “They come in every day, sometimes twice a day, with laundry bags and just load up on stuff. 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.”
More than $200,000 was stolen from the recently closed Rite-Aid in midtown Manhattan, in December and January.
Pharmacies have been particularly hard hit by shoplifting, with Walgreens announcing in October that it would be closing five stores in San Francisco due to organized gangs shoplifting said stores. Alongside New York and San Francisco, high profile shoplifting incidents have taken place at pharmacies in Atlanta, Austin, and Chicago.
Shoplifting in Chicago has gotten so bad that CVS has installed time-delay safes at all of its pharmacies to deter potential theft, per CBS2 News.
In Seattle, shoplifting happens every 10 minutes in Target’s downtown store, with employees expressing exhaustion at how frequent the thefts occurs.
Retailers are pushing Congress for solutions. The CEOs of leading retail chains in the U.S. sent a letter to Congress to pass the INFORM Consumers Act, according to Axios. Furthermore, attorney generals in California and Arizona, as well as New York’s new District Attorney, are considering tougher measures to curb retail theft.
A Black Market on Amazon & Facebook
The Retail Industry Leaders Association says that even pre-COVID, retail thefts were on the rise and weakening retailer’s bottom lines. According to its November study, as much as $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers in 2019, and retail crime results in $125.7 billion in lost economic activity.
Michael Hanson, SVP of public affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, tells Yahoo News, “Professional thieves and organized criminal rings are building a business model by stealing and reselling products, increasingly online through marketplace platforms like Amazon or Facebook.”
Cicely Davis, a Republican candidate for Congress challenging Rep. Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s 5th District, says the retail theft is caused by lax prosecutors and a demoralized police subject to national calls for their defunding.
As Davis succinctly puts it, the smash-and-grabs and outrageous shoplifting is causing “the de-evolution of our society.”
A Symptom of ‘Defund the Police’
“Law and order is one of the most basic needs the government can provide,” Davis says. “Without it, there’s chaos. Meanwhile, criminals know they won’t be held accountable due to weak, far-left funded District Attorneys like Alvin Bragg in Manhattan and Attorneys General such as Keith Ellison in Minneapolis. [There are] leading advocates for defunding and dismantling the police, such as my opponent, Ilhan Omar. Police officers are underfunded, retiring in droves.”
Moreover, Davis says the solution to stop shoplifting is simple: “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel to stop the increase in shoplifting. In the 1990s, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani instigated ‘broken-windows’ policing according to the theory that by addressing smaller crimes, law enforcement can prevent a more serious outbreak in criminality. That policy was successful in transforming New York City. Today, politicians and DAs are broadcasting the exact opposite. The cause and effect is quite clear.”
Finally, Davis is critical of recent comments by none other than Rev. Al Sharpton—a vocal proponent of defunding the police—on MSNBC, where the founder of the National Action Network lamented that pharmacies in New York City are “locking up toothpaste” as a response to the continuous shoplifting.
In response, Davis says, “How nice of the race-baiting, grifter Al Sharpton to step off his private jet long enough to join the common folk in their quest to buy toothpaste. The rest of us have been dealing with this reality for quite some time.”
It is unknown if any relief to mass shoplifting is in sight, but for now, it appears the chaos affecting retailers looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.
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