NYPD says 327 repeat shoplifters commit a third of city’s thefts

Andrew Kogan

The New York City Police Department reported that 327 people were responsible for over a third of retail thefts in 2022, contributing to a citywide rise in shoplifting.

Additionally, Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell reported that these same suspects were arrested and rearrested over 6,000 times. Although the NYPD has not revealed the suspects’ names, they say that addiction and mental illness played a large role in these offenses, while others practice shoplifting as a trade.

Small businesses, such as bodegas and grocery stores, have been common targets for petty crimes. Store owners said they have felt helpless in stopping the occurrences. 

Youssef Mubarez is one of nearly 3,000 deli owners that comprise the Yemeni American Merchants Association.

He told The New York Times that his cousin, who works at their family-owned store in Times Square, has experienced several altercations. He added that some of these instances escalated with suspects brandishing knives.

Additionally, Tchalare Idrissou, who works at a 99-cent store in the Bronx, told the same newspaper that clerks are sometimes limited to letting robbers run free, fearing for their safety.

When you’re trying to stop them from stealing, they engage and try to fight,” Idrissou told The New York Times. “Sometimes we let them go with the stuff, because sometimes some of them have the weapons, sometimes knives.”

Some items that were stolen from these businesses were much more expensive than the average $1 candy bar.

Jose Filpo, who works at his uncle’s deli in the Bronx, told The New York Times that cleaning items like detergent, priced at roughly $10, are among the most shoplifted products. Filpo said he started to place baby formulas behind the register, as recent shortages have raised the item’s demand and price of the item.

Nayelly De Jesus, a worker at a New York City-based small business advocacy coalition named “Collective Action to Protect Our Stores,” argued that despite the already-high rates of shoplifting, the data is actually an underestimate of the city’s true amount of shoplifting.

We feel like when we hold the shoplifter at the store, that’s when our employees get assaulted,”  De Jesus said, according to News 12 Brooklyn. “So, the data is probably three times that.”

She added that many shoplifting cases go unreported because of employees’ unwillingness to call the police.

The unwillingness to report slashed shoplifting arrests to nearly half the rates seen in 2017, down to 34% from 60% five years prior. However, shoplifting complaints have moved two-fold in the opposite direction over the same time frame, reaching a high of 64,000 last year, per the NYPD.

CAPS has called for special police units committed to the protection of retail businesses and their employees.

De Jesus pointed to enacting new laws that would raise the penalties for shoplifting. Three bills that aim to do that are currently in the works in the New York State Assembly.

One of these bills, sponsored by Assembly Member Manny De Los Santos, would make it a felony to assault a retail worker, the same classification as assaulting a police officer, a nurse or a public transit employee.

Other proposed pieces of legislation would place greater emphasis on apprehending the online reselling of stolen items and increasing punishments for repeat offenders.

Authorities hope that state lawmakers enact these proposals.

Jessica Walker, the CEO of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, called these plans “common sense policy solutions that can get the job done.”

Michael McMahon, district attorney of Staten Island, attributed the rise of shoplifting incidents to “reckless” policies that have allowed for these crimes to occur and for these repeat offenders to run rampant, often without apprehension.

The rise in shoplifting has not just affected small, family-owned corner stores. In addition to small businesses, shoplifters have also hit large pharmaceutical chains and department stores, as they made up 20% of all shoplifting complaints in New York City in 2022.