May 17, 2023
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Plan Includes Prevention and Intervention Efforts, Enhanced Enforcement to Stem Increase in Shoplifting
Report Follows December Summit with NYPD, Attorney General, Five DAs, Small Businesses, National Retailers, Union Leaders, Local BIDs, Chambers of Commerce, and More
NEW YORK – New York City Mayor Eric Adams today announced the release a comprehensive plan 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. The 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 both upstream, 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.”
“Retail theft doesn’t just strike at the heart of our economy; it strikes at the hearts and livelihoods of New Yorkers themselves,” said Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Philip Banks III. “It affects every one of us, and it is going to take all of us to solve it — law enforcement, government, retailers, and the public. This plan is our roadmap forward, and we will continue to work together to protect our stores.”
“Rising retail theft has been a principal concern among many small businesses and a hindrance to our continued economic growth,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. “The plan we’re announcing today is balanced, clear-eyed, impactful, and will provide real support to our small business owners and commercial corridors, making our city safer and stronger.”
“As with everything we do in our city, our efforts to combat retail theft require the continued, unwavering commitment and partnership of everyone — every single stakeholder,” said New York City Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Keechant L. Sewell. “Collectively, we have identified a problem and we’re working together to prevent it from enduring. This is how the NYPD is making New York City safer for all: By working in close collaboration with all of our law enforcement partners and, most importantly, alongside the people we serve.”
“Public safety and prosperity go hand-in-hand, and this administration is protecting both,” said New York City Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Kevin D. Kim. “This plan sends a clear signal that small businesses must continue to be allowed to lead our city’s economic recovery. SBS is eager to work with our partners in the business and public safety community, respectively, to ensure that the recommendations from this report are implemented."
“Across the country, cities are struggling to address the challenge of rising retail theft,” said Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Director Deanna Logan. “Today, Mayor Adams leads New York in meeting this challenge with a plan that strikes the right balance between enforcement that promotes accountability and the interventions needed to support healthy neighborhoods resulting in safety, rehabilitation, and continued economic prosperity for all New Yorkers.”
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 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 released today.
The plan comprises 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 will:
To increase necessary enforcement against repeat shoplifters and deter organized crime rings perpetrating these thefts, the administration will:
“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. I am proud to have worked together with Mayor Adams, our District Attorneys, and the NYPD to address this problem, and I look forward to continuing our partnership and combating retail theft so New Yorkers can feel safe in their neighborhoods.”
“Manhattan is the retail capital of the country, and we need our business community to thrive,” said Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. “Retail theft has increased city-wide and nation-wide 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 percent and robberies are down 5 percent, and comparing the first quarter of 2023 to 2022, retail theft complaints are down 11 percent. While we have more work to do, we believe our partnership with the NYPD and mayor's office, and 5-point plan developed with the Small Business Alliance, is beginning to turn the tide.”
“The mayor’s plan to combat retail theft offers concrete measures to get this scourge under control by holding accountable organized or violent thieves, and addressing the needs of people who shoplift because of mental health or other issues,” said Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said. “The only way we are going to solve this major public safety and economic issue is to work together to support mom-and-pop bodegas to big box stores and everything in between, because they are the backbone of our communities.”
“Retail theft complaints more than doubled in Queens from 2018 through 2022,” said Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz. “In response to this surge and the resulting requests for help, I launched the Merchants Business Improvement Program in a variety of business districts in the borough. Retailers have said the program has made a difference, but clearly more is needed, not just in Queens, but across the city. I applaud the mayor for his leadership on this critical issue. We can never lose sight of the fact that communities thrive when local businesses thrive.”
“Retail theft can cause devastating financial losses for businesses, and it also compromises the feeling of safety and security that store employees, shoppers, and residents deserve,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez. “I commend Mayor Adams for his comprehensive plan to combat retail theft, which includes both prevention and intervention efforts to address the needs of the vulnerable, as well as enhanced enforcement to tackle this issue head-on. By working together and taking a multi-faceted problem-solving approach, we can create a safer and more vibrant city for all.”
“Opening and operating a retail business in New York City has always been a daunting yet immensely rewarding professional calling,” said Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon. “These vital New Yorkers and their countless thousands of employees have known this long before the headwinds caused by the pandemic, inflation, and a shortage in the labor market in just the past few years alone. That is why the rise in retail theft and the decline in the employee and customer experience in our retail stores is so deeply alarming and in need of immediate, forceful attention from law enforcement and all levels of government. I am encouraged by the forthcoming actions from the Adams administration that will focus first on increased accountability for those who steal from our stores and provide support for safety measures for our small businesses, while also creating opportunities for those who steal because of mental illness or substance use issues to heal themselves and the underlying reasons for their criminal behavior. Our incredible business community and the families they support deserve our full commitment to creating an environment where they can not only survive, but thrive and continue to serve the needs and wants of our neighbors across Staten Island and the entire city.”
“The recent rise in retail theft has become a quality of life issue for New Yorkers that cannot be ignored,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler. “I applaud this effort which utilizes a unified approach to combat shoplifting while also investing in social solutions for those suffering from poverty and mental illness.”
“Retail theft hurts businesses in New York who are already struggling to keep their doors open and has sharply increased in the last few years,” said New York State Senator Andrew Lanza. “I support Mayor Adams efforts to stop shoplifters on every front. I join with my legislative colleagues in Albany on common sense bipartisan solutions (S1644, S4448, S5479), that if passed will make shoplifters think twice about committing these crimes.”
“The comprehensive plan released by Mayor Adams offers solutions that will help to restore public safety in neighborhoods impacted by retail crimes,” said New York State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. “Collaborative efforts, locally and statewide, combined with the valuable input from many important stakeholders help ensure the actions outlined in the mayor’s report broadly combat all contributing factors in the rise of our city's retail thefts.”
“Retail theft has increased to such an extent that we need a targeted solution employing technology, law enforcement, and other prevention resources to combat shoplifting,” said New York State Senator Roxanne J. Persaud. “Mayor Adams' summit and group of engaged stakeholders show great promise in addressing retail theft across our city.”
“Retail theft has become an epidemic in our city,” said New York State Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz. “Particularly concerning is the fact that such a high percentage of theft is by repeat offenders. We need to take action to address this issue. That means making arrests and that means passing tougher laws to combat this situation. Our local stores are the lifeblood of our community and have been suffering terribly due to the increasing number of people engaging in shoplifting. The time to act is now.”
“With the increased pressures of inflation, since 2018 there has been a 44% uptake in shoplifting complaints,” said New York State Assemblymember Alicia Hyndman. “Mayor Adams plans to combat retail theft through increasing law enforcement, and providing resources to individuals struggling with homelessness, mental illness or poverty. These individuals are negatively impacting retailers who are still recovering from the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to support our local business while also seeking solutions for those that feel shoplifting is their only option in a time of crisis.”
“I commend Mayor Adams for bringing all relevant stakeholders to the table, namely small business owners and law enforcement officials, to find solutions to combat the scourge of organized retail theft that is plaguing our city,” said New York State Assemblymember Michael Reilly. “But let’s not forget that this effort is only part of the solution – Albany lawmakers can and must prioritize policies that toughen penalties for chronic and violent retail theft, including making those crimes eligible for bail. I am committed to working with Mayor Adams and the rest of my state legislative colleagues across New York City to advance these necessary policies.”
“There were almost 64,000 shoplifting complaints last year in our city, many committed by organized theft rings,” said New York State Assemblymember Jenifer Rajkumar. “This is devastating businesses in a time of unprecedented economic challenges and slows our recovery. Today, Mayor Adams is launching a comprehensive plan to address retail theft. This plan incorporates the latest security technology to deter and apprehend shoplifters, coupled with diversion and support for those stealing out of economic desperation. This ensures we will drive down shoplifting and end the theft rings, while also providing people in poverty the help they need to become self-sufficient.”
“Retail theft is on the rise in New York City, and we must tackle it head on,” said New York State Assemblymember Manny De Los Santos. “Retail workers are essential workers, providing essential services to our communities. Concrete steps are needed to address this epidemic of individual and organized retail thefts. I commend Mayor Adams for releasing the Retail Theft Report to provide this roadmap to curtail this problem and keep our retail workers safe.”
“With the explosion of crime that we have seen across our city, I am pleased and excited to hear that Mayor Adams is putting forward a comprehensive plan to address retail theft,” said New York State Assemblymember Michael Novakhov. “Small businesses are the backbone of our city and state. Protecting workers from harm and businesses from crime is critical to supporting small business, encouraging new businesses to set up shop in our state, and to improving the quality of life for all New Yorkers. I look forward to reading this release and hope that it will be a productive step in the right direction for our city.”
“Protecting small businesses and retailors plagued by the recent increase in shoplifting complaints, while holistically addressing the root causes, adds a level of balance and fairness that can generate lasting change,” said Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson. “While sharing strategies to reduce shoplifting such as leveraging of technology, improving citywide response and more, ‘The Retail Theft Report,’ also seeks to enhance social service programs that target those suffering from substance abuse, mental illness, homelessness, poverty and more. I want to thank Mayor Adams for prioritizing equity and justice in ‘The Retail Theft Report,’ to ensure our communities thrive once again.”
“For New York City to thrive, we must be a place where people feel comfortable setting up shop – literally,” said New York City Council Majority Leader Keith Powers. “We must take steps to crack down on the steady stream of shoplifting while providing supportive services for those in need.”
"Mayor Eric Adams' comprehensive plan to combat retail theft in New York City is a step towards protecting retailers and bolstering economic recovery,” said New York City Councilmember Robert F. Holden. “This plan demonstrates a commitment to protecting retailers and supporting vulnerable individuals in the city. However, if our state legislators don't roll back the pro-criminal laws that tie the hands of our judges, we'll continue seeing career criminals back out on the streets breaking the law."
“As a participant in the summit to address retail theft, I am pleased that Mayor Adams is taking the next step to implement actionable items to help our business owners and reduce retail theft,” said New York City Councilmember Julie Menin. “As we recover from the pandemic, it is of paramount importance to have safe working conditions and consumer shopping experiences. I look forward to the plan being implemented which will support the over 200,000 businesses in New York City.”
“The alarming rise in theft is hurting all aspects of the retail sector, but it is especially damaging to small businesses, which are the backbone of our economy,” said New York City Councilmember Sandra Ung. “We can’t expect them to thrive in an environment where they have to constantly be vigilant against criminals. I attended the mayor’s retail theft summit, and I am encouraged the city is moving forward on some of the good ideas that were shared so we can begin to turn the tide on the rise in retail theft.”
“As retail theft continues to rise, I am supportive of strategies that enable law enforcement to take action, uplift our businesses, and hold bad actors accountable,” said New York City Councilmember Marjorie Velázquez, chair, Committee on Consumer and Worker Protection. “Employees deserve a safe work environment, and consumers should be able to get the products and necessities they need safely.”
“Mayor Eric Adams recognized from the outset that a strategic, comprehensive plan was necessary to address the rising retail theft incidents in the five boroughs,” said Melissa O’Connor, president and CEO, Retail Council of New York State. “On behalf of thousands of stores in New York, we appreciate the initiatives outlined in the report released today. The retail industry has collaborated with this administration, the New York City Police Department and prosecutors over the past several months to prioritize store and community safety. This partnership will be formalized and strengthened through the New York City Organized Retail Theft Task Force, which will serve as a necessary and effective collaboration between stakeholders to hold organized retail crime syndicates and repeat offenders accountable.”
“We are very thankful that Mayor Eric Adams is taking retail theft seriously and this report shows clearly that they have a plan in place,” said Nelson Eusebio, founding member, Collective Action to Protect our Stores (CAPS). “For too long, retail theft has impacted stores with workers and consumers attacked, harmed and threatened. It hurts our communities, and it hurts our small businesses. We need action and the recommendations by Mayor Adams and his team are actionable and will get results.”