December 3, 2023

New York City has led the US with the sharpest increase in the number of reported shoplifting incidents since before the pandemic, according to a study.

The Big Apple saw a 64% increase in reported incidents of retail theft during the four-year period between mid-2019 and June of this year, while Los Angeles experienced a 61% surge in the same metric, according to the Council on Criminal Justice.

Despite the spike in reported shoplifting incidents, New York City saw an 8% decrease in the first half of 2023, according to the study.

A New York Police Department spokesperson pointed to crime statistics showing that there were more than 93,000 incidents of petty larceny so far this year — which is 29% higher compared to the same period two years ago but 5% lower compared to the same period last year.

LA, meanwhile, saw a 109% increase in reported retail theft incidents in the first six months of this year — the highest in the country, the report found.

Dallas was second with a 73% bump in the number of reported shoplifting incidents in the first half of 2023.

Virginia Beach, Dallas, Raleigh, Boston, and Pittsburgh are the other cities that saw a spike in the number of shoplifting incidents that were reported over the course of the last four years — although their gains were well short of those in New York and LA, the report found.

The analysis was put together using data gleaned from law enforcement agencies or city websites as well as statistics from the National Incident-Based Reporting System.

The analysis, which examined shoplifting data in 24 cities where police publish data on retail theft, found that shoplifting reports were 16% higher — about 8,450 more incidents — during the first half of 2023 compared to the first half of 2019.

With New York excluded from the sample, however, the number of incidents among the study cities was 7% lower — about 2,550 fewer incidents.

A surge in shoplifting has forced retail locations nationwide to train security cameras on product shelves containing socks and men’s underwear while locking up items such as electric toothbrushes and razors in hopes of combating the surge in shoplifting.

The authors of the Council on Criminal Justice study caution that it is unclear what lies behind the trends, though “bail reform is one possible explanation.”

Another factor contributing to the increased reportage of shoplifting incidents is the change in the rate which retailers contact law enforcement.

Shoplifting, especially smash and grab episodes caught on video, has received extensive attention from the media and policymakers, and retailers have cited theft concerns in closing stores and placing goods in locked cases, said CCJ Research Specialist Ernesto Lopez, co-author of the report.

Far better data from law enforcement and the retail industry data is needed to help strengthen our grasp of shoplifting trends. For now, its unclear if the increase is a result of increased shoplifting, increased reporting from businesses to police, or a combination of both.

In 2019, New York State approved sweeping changes aimed at keeping defendants who cant afford bail from being disproportionately jailed.

But those changes have been tweaked twice before amid criticism that judges were being deprived of a tool they could use to hold people likely to commit new crimes.

In April, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that judges will have more discretion to jail people awaiting trial for alleged crimes — a policy change fiercely resisted by some of her fellow Democrats.

A recent report by the National Retail Federation, a trade group representing US retailers, said that chains had lost $112 billion due to a wave of organized theft rings in New York, San Francisco, LA, and Houston last year — up from $93.9 billion in 2021.

Target said earlier this year that it expects to suffer as much as a $1.3 billion hit to its bottom line because of theft and organized crime.”

The latest police statistics show that rates of burglary and grand larceny have fallen so far this year compared to the same period in 2022.

To date, burglary in the five boroughs has fallen 13.2% since the start of the year compared to the same period last year while grand larceny has dropped 3.3%.

Incidents of robbery have also decreased in number, according to the New York Police Department.

Since the start of the year, there have been a reported 14,159 incidents of robbery — down nearly 5% compared to the same period last year.

San Francisco and Seattle saw the two biggest drops in the number of retail theft incidents between January and June of this year, according to the research.

Analysts found there was a 35% decrease in the number of reported shoplifting incidents in the Bay Area, where several high-profile thefts were caught on camera.

Seattle, meanwhile, saw a 31% drop during the same period.

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