Retail theft has been on the rise in cities all across America in recent years, though the trend is often ignored or downplayed by political leaders.
Democratic New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday acknowledged the problem plaguing his city and announced a plan to try and crack down on rampant shoplifting, the Daily Mail reported.
One particular focus of the effort will be on the relatively small number of repeat offenders who are responsible for a substantial portion of all retail theft in the city and target the same bodegas, department stores, grocery stores, and pharmacies over and over again.
Mayor Adams held a major press conference on Wednesday along with other city leaders, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and state officials to discuss plans to address the retail theft problem in New York City.
"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," Adams said in a statement.
"Last year alone, 327 repeat offenders were responsible for 30 percent of the more than 22,000 retail thefts across our city," he noted. "This hurt our businesses, our workers, our customers, and our city."
The New York Post reported that Mayor Adams convened a summit of city officials and relevant stakeholders at the governor's mansion several months ago to work out ideas on how best to stop the worsening problem of rampant retail theft, particularly by repeat offenders.
One of the solutions unveiled on Wednesday is a new initiative known as the Precision Repeat Offender Program, or PROP, that will help the city and business owners keep track of serial shoplifters, whether those repeat offenders act as individuals or as part of organized crime rings.
Per the mayor's office, the program would essentially be comprised of a list of known repeat offenders that retailers could access and submit detailed incident reports to in order to help raise awareness about particular individuals to keep watch for.
That is just one of several proposals, as the New York Daily News reported that two other new diversion programs were also announced that will focus on first-time and non-violent offenders, including through referrals to nonprofit social services work and court-mandated community service or career workshops.
A key aspect of the city's plan is differentiating between the different categories of retail thieves, such as those who steal out of poverty or due to mental health or substance abuse reasons as compared to those who are career criminals or steal items to then sell online or on the streets for a profit.
"There are people who steal out of necessity. The plan is how to give them their resources," Deputy Mayor Phillip Banks said. "And there are people who steal because they’re in organized crime -- and they should feel the wrath of New York City."
According to the mayor's office, there are a number of other proposals to combat retail theft in addition to the repeat offender tracking program and the new diversion programs for first-time and non-violent offenders.
That includes a plan to place kiosks in retail locations to help connect would-be shoplifters with government resources, as well as support and training programs for employees to help teach them various anti-theft and de-escalation tactics.
The effort will also include the establishment of a sort of neighborhood watch group for businesses that will allow retailers to share information with each other about incidents of theft and perpetrators, along with the creation of a special Organized Retail Theft Task Force to target and take down the organized crime rings in the city.
The mayor will also advocate at the state and federal levels for assistance and even new laws aimed at cracking down on the online resale of stolen goods in order to discourage such activity and reduce theft overall.