With shoplifting on the rise, NYC Mayor Adams unveils new plan to reduce retail theft

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In response to an explosion of shoplifting in the city, Mayor Adams and city officials unveiled a multifaceted plan Wednesday to tamp down on retail theft, with an eye toward addressing root causes like poverty and drug addiction while homing in on organized gangs of thieves.

The city’s new initiative, announced in a now-vacant Harlem store, has been in the works since December, when Adams convened a confab at Gracie Mansion to address the issue.

The city’s plan will include two diversion programs. One enables district attorneys to refer first-time offenders to nonprofit social service providers. The other would be court-mandated and employ community service, restorative justice and career workshops as alternatives to incarceration.

It will also focus on recidivist thieves who are responsible for a disproportionate number of thefts.

“In 2022, we made over 22,000 retail theft arrests. And here’s the number that jumps off at all of us: 327 repeat offenders were responsible for 30% of those arrests.” Adams said. “Those 327 individuals were arrested more than 6,600 times for an average of 20 times each.”

To address that, Adams said the NYPD would “increase enforcement against repeat offenders and organized crime” in the form of what the city has dubbed the Precision Repeat Offender Program designed to better connect retailers, detectives and prosecutors.

Adams is hoping to build on recent indications that the retail theft tide is beginning to turn.

Michael Lipetri, the NYPD’s chief of crime control strategies, pointed out that this year retail theft complaints are down about by about 1,000, while arrests are up by almost 1,500 compared with the same time frame in 2022.

From 2021 to 2022, retail thefts jumped by about 45%.

Philip Banks, who serves as Adams’ deputy mayor for public safety, suggested the program will not be driven by arrest statistics, but by differentiating between people who are stealing because they’re hungry or addicted and those who are repeat offenders and opportunists.

“There are people who steal out of necessity. The plan is how to give them their resources,” Banks said. “And there are people who steal because they’re in organized crime — and they should feel the wrath of New York City.”