The organized retail crime was on the rise before 2020, but the jump in online shopping during the pandemic has emboldened criminals, who typically take to the internet and its online marketplaces to resell stolen merchandise for a profit.
Such thefts have risen nearly 60% since 2015 and cost stores an average of $700,000 for every $1 billion in sales, according to a 2020 National Retail Federation survey of 61 retailers.
Organized shoplifting is an ongoing menace for major retailers across the U.S., with groups of thieves making off with electronics, clothing, and footwear on Black Friday in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago.
Large groups of criminals stole pricey products from Best Buy stores in Maplewood and Burnsville, Minnesota.
“We can’t tolerate that kind of behavior. Just as a society, we just can’t,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher told a live stream. “As an industry we are working with local law enforcement and taking additional security precautions where it makes sense,” Best Buy told a local CBS affiliate.
Police in Chicago are investigating four “smash-and-grab” retail robberies downtown and on the city’s near Northwest side targeting stores including Foot Locker, the North Face and Canada Goose, WGN9 and the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The large-scale thefts follow other alarming incidents this month that had an estimated 80 thieves ransacking a Nordstrom store in California and more than a dozen people swiping merchandise from a Louis Vuitton store in suburban Chicago. Thieves tend to target densely populated urban areas with a high volume of stores in close proximity to one another.
Multiple retailers and at least two states have reported an increase in mass thefts, with experts saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has fueled the uptick in this kind of activity.
The conversation about shoplifting is often hysterical and occasionally stupid, but that doesn’t mean something isn’t actually happening. Some of the facts seem clear, others murkier, and the underlying causes, like everything during this pandemic, are no doubt complex and uncertain. Let’s see if we can organize our thoughts a bit.
What we know
Shoplifting has been on the rise across the United States, with increasing theft of both staples for survival and the goods most easily resold on the black market. More specifically, and perhaps even more certainly, a still wealthy San Francisco, where one would expect retailers to desperately want a presence, can only seem to watch as its retailers flee. CVS is out. Walgreens is out. One Target it out (but not the biggest one). And the reason they claim is not commercial real estate overhead costs or declining customer bases, but an overwhelming increase in shoplifting (or what the retail industry used to call “inventory shrink”). While obviously not the whole story, the effective decriminalization of theft under $950 in San Francisco seems a key component. It doesn’t take any clever or subtle theorizing to expect that if the cost of theft under a certain threshold is radically lowered, then all you have to do is disaggregate your theft events across time and people to yield a sufficiently lucrative use of time (especially for those who are struggling or already carry the far weightier burden of a felony record). You can’t lower the opportunity cost of labor (less jail time) in a field of endeavor (boosting consumer goods) and pretend to be shocked when supply increases (more theft).
The laws in liberal states prevent the police to do anything about stolen merchandise up to 950$
But it seems that some shoplifters are just too stupid to use these laws.
The robbers scream: “Can I Get My Keys Back” but what they don’t see is that they are at the wrong car, they were served instant justice and they had to get away without their stolen merchandise!
It would be a pretty shocking development to look back one day and realize that shoplifting was what closed the book on brick and mortar retail. Not Amazon or delivery drones, but the favored hobby of bored delinquents and subsidy of struggling families.