With the exception of 2020, the total number of shoplifting complaints across New York City’s five boroughs has increased every year since 2018 — although there are signs that this tide is turning in 2023. The largest increase took place from 2021 to 2022 when shoplifting complaints increased 44% year-over-year to reach almost 64,000, many of which were committed by organized theft rings, according to New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar in a statement.
To combat retail theft, NYC Mayor Eric Adams, alongside other city and state leaders, announced a comprehensive plan on May 17, 2023 that will bring together increased law enforcement efforts and enhanced social service programming and resources to prevent shoplifting across the city.
“Manhattan is the retail capital of the country, and we need our business community to thrive,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg in a statement detailing the new plan. “Retail theft has increased citywide and nationwide since the pandemic, and we must continue to work together to drive down shoplifting. However, there is encouraging news — for the first time since the pandemic, retail theft has begun to decline in Manhattan. Year to date, petit larcenies are down 8% and robberies are down 5%, and comparing the first quarter of 2023 to 2022, retail theft complaints are down 11%.”
Last December, Mayor Adams convened a summit of more than 70 stakeholders to address retail theft across New York City. The meeting brought together law enforcement officials, government stakeholders, small business representatives, large retail groups, union leaders, business improvement districts, chambers of commerce and diversion providers. Following the summit, the Adams administration conducted independent research and data analyses and consulted with law enforcement and retail business management to produce a series of recommendations that have now been released in the Retail Theft Report.
The plan includes targeted solutions to reduce retail theft perpetrated by individual shoplifters as well as by organized crime rings. Among the plan’s prevention and intervention strategies are:
- Establishing two new diversion programs — “Second Chance” and “Re-Engaging Store Theft Offenders and Retail Establishments” (RESTORE) — to allow nonviolent offenders to avoid prosecution or incarceration by meaningfully engaging with services to help address underlying factors that lead to shoplifting;
- Installing resource kiosks in stores to connect individuals in need to critical government resources and social services; and
- Launching 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.
Efforts to increase necessary enforcement against repeat shoplifters and deter organized crime rings will include:
- Creating a Precision Repeat Offender Program (PROP) for 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;
- Establishing 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 when he served as Brooklyn Borough President, to expand video surveillance camera usage among participants;
- Advocating 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; and
- Establishing 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.
“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 in a statement. “Last year alone, 327 repeat offenders were responsible for 30% of the more than 22,000 retail thefts across our city. This plan aims to reassure our store owners that we know they are essential to our city, and we have their backs.”