Paul Kersey, Unz Review, November 21, 2023
Well, Jeff Bezos’ Washington Post Editorial Board is calling out business in a city besieged by black crime for locking up items black criminals are after, and hilariously notes sun screen and greeting cards are the only items NOT locked up… [Opinion: How do you fight shoplifting? Not by locking down everything in CVS., Washington Post, November 18, 2023]:
Shoppers visiting the CVS Pharmacy at 14th and Irving streets NW in Washington recently must think they traveled back in time to the Soviet Union. The store’s shelves are bare. The refrigerator cases are devoid of food or beverages. When we visited, only sunscreen and greeting cards were on display. But the bizarre scene is not a result of a failed planned economy; rampant theft is the cause. Shoplifters ransacked this CVS over two days early last month, and it hasn’t been restocked since. Weeks later, there’s still hardly anything to buy — or steal.
The CVS at 14th and Irving symbolizes extreme retail theft and the harms it can engender. Distressing and inconvenient to ordinary people, threatening to businesses and livelihoods, and repellent to tourists, unchecked shoplifting can corrode a community’s spirit.
It’s happening in the nation’s capital. The D.C. police department does not track shoplifting specifically but reports that theft in general is up 22 percent over last year. It is harder and harder to find a grocery or pharmacy in the District that doesn’t lock up laundry detergent, toilet paper and deodorant. A Giant in Southeast no longer even stocks certain name-brand health and beauty products that thieves target. A liquor store downtown is closing because of constant shoplifting. The H Street Walmart shuttered earlier this year. (The company said the store “hasn’t performed as well as we hoped.”)
The District ranks behind all but one state for retail theft, according to a new Forbes Advisor survey of small businesses. The situation in D.C. is emblematic of a national experience. The National Retail Federation recently reported a “dramatic jump” in stores’ financial losses between 2021 and 2022 — from $93.9 billion to $112.1 billion.
The best new impartial look at shoplifting trends is a recent report by the nonpartisan Council on Criminal Justice. The CCJ’s innovative methodology analyzed police records in 24 cities that track retail theft closely and found a mixed but troubling picture. As of mid-June, New York and Los Angeles saw surges of more than 60 percent compared with 2019, while the phenomenon has ebbed elsewhere.
To be sure, some theft has always been a cost of doing business for retailers. Kids grab the occasional candy bar; desperate parents sneak out with some extra diapers; workers swipe items during delivery and stocking. This is why many places in the United States, including D.C., make stealing less than $1,000 worth of goods a misdemeanor, not a felony.
Seattle, one of the cities where CCJ found that shoplifting is lower now than it was five years ago, offers a good model. The city identified more than 160 “high utilizers” responsible for the vast majority of recent misdemeanors such as shoplifting. Police were able to put these individuals in jail when they were caught. To deter others, Seattle police conduct surprise one-day crackdowns that lead to about 50 arrests each. “The strongest predictor to reduced criminal behavior is the belief they will get caught,” said Ernesto Lopez, lead author of the Council on Criminal Justice’s shoplifting report. Occasional, but unpredictable, bursts of strict enforcement can deter shoplifters at minimal cost to police.
The District and other cities need to get smarter about how they attack this crime. Otherwise, even more retail stores might find themselves going back to the U.S.S.R.
Here’s an idea: don’t let people shoplift and actively arrest those who do.
If black people are disproportionately committing crime… oh well. If black people are disproportionately arrested for committing crime, you can at least stay open and ultimately put more products out for purchasing besides sun screen and greeting cards, right?