You’ve probably read about it in the news – in recent years, there’s been a reported increase retail theft in New York. According to some, the increase can be attributed to the 2020 changes in bail laws, as misdemeanor larcenies and non-violent thefts are no longer bail eligible.
For NYC, the increase in such thefts has been staggering. A report from the Mayor’s Office indicates a 77% increase over the past five years, with most of the increase occurring in the last two years. Now, the Mayor’s Office has announced a plan to combat retail theft in NYC.
Stats on the Increase in Retail Theft
In 2022, there were nearly 64,000 thefts reported to the NYPD. Twenty percent of all complaints were reported by a small number of department stores (18 locations) and chain pharmacies (7 locations). Of the nearly 64,000 reports, only 34% resulted in an arrest. Of those arrested, nearly one-third involved just 327 people. That small group of 327 people were arrested (and re-arrested) more than 6,000 times.
There has been some reporting of theft rings, meaning those who actually engage in these types of larcenies as a trade. Additionally, it is widely known that many of those who engage in retail theft have addiction issues or mental health concerns.
Moreover, given inflation and the state of economy, some folks are just simply desperate. Indeed, a review of police data by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice found that last year, the theft of items valued at less than $1,000 had increased 53% since 2019.
Efforts to Curb Retail Theft
Because of this uptick, the Mayor’s Office has announced a Task Force and a multi-point plan to combat retail theft. To begin, the NYPD will review reports and statistics to understand where thefts are taking place, and it will deploy patrols to those hotspots. Moreover, the Intelligence Division will collect information about repeat crimes and organized theft rings, and additional resources will be devoted to investigating complaints. Additionally, the Precision Repeat Offender Program (PROP) will utilize Security Incident Reports to identify those who are repeatedly arrested for theft offenses.
Retailers will also be asked to participate in Neighborhood Retail Watch systems, forming a real-time intelligence gathering and information sharing network. Plus, employers can elect to participate in an Employee Support Program (ESP), which will provide staff with training focused on de-escalation tactics, anti-theft tools, and best practices. Finally, Store Resource Kiosks may be installed in retail establishments. The kiosks will provide information about social services, legal services, and mental health and substance abuse treatment.
When a person is arrested for retail theft in NYC, there will now be two diversion programs available to those who meet certain critera. The Second Chance Initiative is a pre-arraignment diversion program that gives non-violent first-time offenders a chance to avoid criminal prosecution. After screening, the individual will be referred to a service provider for a one-day program, which can take the form of an educational workshop and restorative justice circle.
Alternatively, RESTORE (Re-Engaging Store Theft Offenders & Retail Establishments) is an Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) program. This is a court-mandated program that will offer a variety of programming including community service, educational modules, career exploration workshops, restorative justice exercises, and retail employee shadowing initiatives. For some, there will also be supportive services offered.
- Press Release, “Mayor Adams Announces Plan to Combat Retail Theft in New York City,” NYC Office of the Mayor (May 17, 2023). Available at: https://www.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/340-23/mayor-adams-plan-combat-retail-theft-new-york-city#/0 (last accessed May 26, 2023).
- Report, “Combating Retail Theft in New York City,” NYC Office of the Mayor (March 2023). Available at: https://www.nyc.gov/assets/home/downloads/pdf/office-of-the-mayor/2023/combating-retail-theft-report-may-17-2023.pdf (last accessed May 26, 2023).
- Hurubie Meko, “A Tiny Number of Shoplifters Commit Thousands of New York City Thefts,” New York Times (Apr. 15, 2023). Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/04/15/nyregion/shoplifting-arrests-nyc.html (last accessed May 26, 2023).
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