According to city officials, retail theft complaints have nearly doubled in the past five years in New York City. In response to this trend, Mayor Eric Adams unveiled a comprehensive plan to combat the rising issue.

The plan includes various strategies to prevent retail theft and take enforcement action against offenders.

Repeat offenders account for a significant portion of retail thefts

In 2022, city data revealed that 327 repeat offenders were responsible for 30% of the over 22,000 retail thefts in the city. This marks a 45% increase from 2021 and a staggering 77% increase from 2018.

Mayor Adams emphasised the need to address the issue, stating that shoplifters and organised crime rings target businesses already suffering due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

A comprehensive plan to tackle retail theft

Mayor Adams outlined a multifaceted plan that combines law enforcement, prevention and intervention to combat retail theft.

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The plan aims to invest in diversion programmes and address the underlying factors that lead to such crimes. It also focuses on training retail workers in de-escalation tactics and security best practices.

The plan includes increased enforcement measures to deter repeat offenders and organised crime rings. Mayor Adams expressed the importance of supporting store owners and assuring them of the city’s commitment to their well-being.

Prevention measures and employee training

The prevention aspect of the plan incorporates two new diversion programmes.

Non-violent offenders will have the opportunity to avoid prosecution or incarceration by receiving services that target the underlying causes of shoplifting. The installation of resource kiosks in stores will help individuals connect with critical government resources and social services.

A new employee training programme will equip retail workers with the necessary skills to prevent theft and handle difficult situations.

Enforcement strategies and collaborative efforts

On the enforcement side, the city will establish a programme to track repeat offenders more effectively. A neighbourhood retail watch will be introduced, benefiting businesses in close proximity to one another.

The city will also advocate at the state and federal levels for new online sale verification procedures to prevent the sale of stolen items. Furthermore, a dedicated New York City Organised Retail Theft Task Force will be formed, comprising retailers, law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders.

All five district attorneys in the city, including Richmond County District Attorney Michael McMahon, have endorsed the mayor’s plan.

Staten Island retail thefts highlighted

Staten Island experienced a 59% increase in retail thefts in 2022 compared to the previous year, making it the second-highest increase after the Bronx, which saw a 60% rise.

Compared to 2018, Staten Island observed an 18% jump, significantly lower than the other boroughs. Most retail theft incidents on the island occurred in the 121st Precinct, where major shopping centres like the Staten Island Mall are located.

Legislators support the mayor’s efforts, call for additional actions

State Senator Andrew Lanza and Assemblyman Michael Reilly, both representing the South Shore of Staten Island, commended Mayor Adams for his plan but emphasised the need for additional action at the state level.

Lanza highlighted three pieces of legislation that would increase penalties for assaults on retail workers, create a misdemeanour offence for facilitating the sale of stolen goods and elevate a petit larceny charge to a grand larceny charge for repeat offenders.

State Senator Jessica Scarcella-Spanton and Assemblyman Charles Fall are also actively involved in supporting legislation to protect retail workers from assaults and strengthen penalties for retail theft.

Looking ahead

With retail theft complaints rising in New York City, Mayor Adams has launched a comprehensive plan to combat the issue. By implementing a combination of prevention, enforcement and intervention measures, the mayor aims to address the underlying causes of retail theft, support businesses and ensure the safety of retail workers and customers.

While the plan has garnered support from local officials and legislators, they also stress the need for additional legislative action at the state level to strengthen penalties and deter offenders.

By taking a proactive approach and involving various stakeholders, including retailers, law enforcement agencies and community members, Mayor Adams hopes to curtail the alarming increase in retail theft and reassure store owners that their concerns are being addressed.

The success of these efforts will protect businesses and contribute to a safer and more vibrant retail environment in New York City.