Shampoo, toothpaste, and razor blades are all items that grocery stores have increasingly started locking behind counters. Soon, that list might include food.
“People have no fear of coming to your store and stealing,” said Nelson Eusebio of the National Supermarket Association.
“Our employees are terrified,” Eusebio continued. “We have young people that come to work, young cashiers who work part-time, these kids are 16-17 years old. They’re traumatized.”
The National Supermarket Association represents independent grocery stores in New York City. Its statistics show that 30% of its membership has left the city over the past few years.
New York City has been host to a spree of “serial shoplifters,” men and woman who make a regular habit of bursting into stores, stealing as much as they can, and leaving. This has resulted in over 4,000 grocery stores calling for prosecutors to set bail for repeat thieves and to make assaults on retail workers a Class D felony.
“Everything that is cosmetics, shampoo, baby formula is behind the counters. It’s going to be more and more of that happening,” Eusebio says. “We’re going to have an environment where everything is behind the counter and the shopping experience is just going to be gone.”
The industry is banding together to form a coalition called Collective Action to Protect our Stores (CAPS).
The coalition is led by the independent supermarkets of the National Super Market Association and the founding members are the National Supermarket Association, the Bodega and Small Business Group, and the Metro Supermarket Association.
“Retail theft is a significant issue in New York, and owners and operators of supermarkets, bodegas, and other stores are thinking about customer safety and their own well-being then they consider ideas like this,” CAPS told Fox News Digital. “We formed Collective Action to Protect our stores because this is a crisis, and we need the state, city, District Attorneys and other New York leaders to start acting like it.”
The group additionally calls for prosecutors to invoke the “harm on harm” doctrine to target serial thieves and for the District Attorney’s offices and the NYPD to dedicate units to address the plague.
CAPS also argues that the purchasing of stolen groceries should be a Class A misdemeanor that can bring fines and a short jail sentence.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams has made a point of combating the repeat offenses. “Criminals believe our criminal justice system is a joke,” Adams said in comments referring to a serial intruder who was arrested and released 26 times. “Those arrested for grand larceny go to court, get released and on their way home from court, they’re doing another grand larceny.”
According to the New York Police Department, grand larcenies, thefts of over $1,000, were up 80% in New York City last year.