New York City Mayor Eric Adams has released a new plan in an attempt to combat retail theft across New York City’s five boroughs.
With the exception of 2020, the total number of citywide shoplifting complaints has increased year over year since 2018, with the largest increase (44 percent) taking place from 2021 to 2022. The increase in retail theft has had a particularly significant impact on retailers that are still recovering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Retail Theft Report created through a collaborative effort between retailers, law enforcement, and other stakeholders that came together through a summit hosted by Mayor Adams at Gracie Mansion includes program-oriented solutions and enhanced enforcement efforts, as well as information on existing efforts across New York City agencies to combat retail theft.
“Shoplifters and organized crime rings prey on businesses that have already taken a hit due to COVID-19, but, with this comprehensive plan, we’re going to beat back on retail theft through a combination of law enforcement, prevention, and intervention,” said Mayor Adams. “Last year alone, 327 repeat offenders were responsible for 30 percent of the more than 22,000 retail thefts across our city. This hurt our businesses, our workers, our customers, and our city. This plan will help us invest in diversion programs and in underlying factors leading to retail theft, works upstream to stop some of the factors leading to a crime before one takes place, trains retail workers in de-escalation tactics and security best practices, and takes numerous actions to increase necessary enforcement against repeat shoplifters and deter organized crime rings perpetrating these thefts. Most importantly, this plan aims to reassure our store owners that we know they are essential to our city, and we have their backs. I want to thank the nearly 100 stakeholders from the public and private sectors who participated in our summit last year and who contributed to drafting this report for bringing forward their innovative solutions to tackle this critical issue.”
Last December, Mayor Adams convened a summit comprised of more than 70 stakeholders to collaborate on policy and find creative solutions to address retail theft across New York City. The summit brought together law enforcement officials, government stakeholders, small business representatives, large retail groups, union leaders, business improvement districts, chambers of commerce, and diversion providers to discuss a variety of topics, including physical security measures, new diversion programs, leveraging technology to protect businesses and improve citywide responses, and enhancing existing partnerships among private, government, and non-profit sectors. The Adams administration said it then analyzed the information shared by the attendees at the summit, conducted independent research and data analyses, and consulted with law enforcement and retail business management to produce the recommendations in the report.
The plan includes attempts at targeted solutions to reduce retail theft perpetrated by individual shoplifters, as well as organized crime rings, including a combination of increased law enforcement efforts and enhanced social service programming and resources to prevent shoplifting, particularly by individuals struggling with substance use disorders, serious mental illness, homelessness, or poverty.
Among the prevention and intervention strategies included in the plan, the administration says it will:
- Establish two new diversion programs—Second Chance and Re-Engaging Store Theft Offenders and Retail Establishments (RESTORE)—to allow non-violent offenders to avoid prosecution or incarceration by engaging with services to help address underlying factors that lead to shoplifting.
- Install resource kiosks in stores to connect individuals in need to critical government resources and social services.
- Launch an employee support program to train retail workers in de-escalation tactics, anti-theft tools, and security best practices to help keep them safe in the event of an emergency and to support employees who have been impacted by thefts.
To increase necessary enforcement against repeat shoplifters and deter organized crime rings perpetrating these thefts, the administration says it will:
- Create a Precision Repeat Offender Program (PROP) in which retailers can submit dedicated security incident reports to the NYPD to better identify and track repeat offenders and facilitate stronger prosecutions by the five District Attorneys’ Offices.
- Establish a neighborhood retail watch for businesses in close proximity to one another to share real-time intelligence with each other and with law enforcement in the event of a theft. This program builds upon the NYPD’s Operation Safe Shopper initiative created under Mayor Adams’ leadership as Brooklyn borough president to expand video surveillance camera usage among participants.
- Advocate at the state and federal level for additional online sale authentication procedures to prevent the resale of stolen goods to build upon the federal Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) for Consumers Act, which goes into effect in June 2023.
- Establish a New York City Organized Retail Theft Task Force, comprised of retailers, law enforcement agencies, and other stakeholders to collaborate and respond to retail theft trends.
“Retail theft continues to harm New Yorkers, threaten businesses, and threaten the safety of our communities,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “We know inflation is cutting into paychecks and forcing tough conversations around kitchen tables, but stealing from small businesses that are already struggling with high costs and low profit margins is not the answer.”
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