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Retail theft is robbing people of the American dream
By Gabriel Nadales, Opinion Contributor,
Inflation is not the only force responsible for the rising prices of food, clothing, and convenience items. Runaway shoplifting is the covert culprit weighing down your already-hefty shopping bills.
America’s “ shoplifting epidemic ” cost retailers nearly $100 billion in 2021 alone, a price that is felt by every American . Yet Lawmakers and prosecutors are making a bad situation worse by refusing to hold criminals accountable.
Many police departments in the United States are severely underfunded and understaffed, a trend exacerbated by the Defund the Police movement, which demoralized police forces and depressed recruitment efforts.
This year, for the second time in Boston’s history, the Boston Police Department issued a desperate call for new cops because of “dire” staffing shortfalls in the city. As one might expect, the number of police officers on patrol in a given area directly correlates with violent crime rates, causing communities with police shortages to suffer more from theft, shootings, and other crimes.
Rogue district attorneys, meanwhile, are refusing to prioritize the safety of their constituents. Washington D.C.’s U.S. attorney blatantly refused to prosecute nearly 70 percent of people arrested in 2022 . Most of the cases he passed over involved firearm possession, drug possession, and burglary charges.
Likewise, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office last year revealed that it only took up two cases against a serial shoplifter responsible for 23 separate thefts. In giving lawbreakers a “Get Out of Jail Free” card, rogue prosecutors only encourage criminals to commit further and potentially more serious offenses.
There is no question that criminals across the nation are having a heyday. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, cities including Washington have seen dramatic increases in property crimes, motor vehicle theft, and robberies. This unchecked crime wave alongside historic highs in retail theft is devastating U.S. retailers.
A dramatic uptick in theft recently contributed to a 14 percent drop in shares for Dollar General, a store popular for its low prices. Families who rely on Dick’s Sporting Goods for essential items that their children need to stay active on the sports field may soon see prices surge after the company lost 23 percent of its profit from theft in the second quarter.
Target and Home Depot are experiencing similar consequences of shoplifting across the country. Wawa, a staple for Pennsylvanians, has closed six locations in Philadelphia, as crime rates continue to skyrocket.
Businesses should not have to play the role of law enforcement out of desperation to keep their doors open to the public.
But when politicians refuse to hold criminals accountable for their crimes, storekeepers are forced to take matters into their own hands. Some stores are putting locks on freezer doors to prevent thieves from stealing frozen pizzas and ice cream. Others are even using systems such as fog dispensers to prevent burglars from visibly identifying objects to steal in the first place.
The more money stores spend on implementing such systems to mitigate theft, the more money they will must charge customers to remain profitable.
Simple shopping errands are becoming a thing of the past. One grocery store in the D.C. area is planning to empty its health and beauty shelves of all national labels due to rampant theft of these items. Shoppers will no longer be able to purchase Tide, Colgate, or Advil, and they will have to show receipts to an employee after checking out and before leaving the store. “We want to continue to be able to serve the community, but we can’t do so at the level of significant loss or risk to our associates that we have today,” said Giant’s president, Ira Kress.
Political officials are abandoning Americans in this crisis-level shoplifting streak. It’s long past time for lawmakers to reengage and actively address the problem holistically by reexamining budget priorities, directing funding at police forces, and removing prosecutors who are unwilling to do their jobs.
Failure to combat retail theft is unfair to hardworking American families struggling to afford essentials and save for their futures. Lawmakers must tenaciously pursue policies that will encourage the U.S. criminal justice system to do its job to protect American citizens and allow them to pursue the American dream.
Gabriel Nadales is national director for Our America.