With sustained unemployment and food scarcity reaching historically high levels in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the country, a growing number of increasingly desperate Americans have resorted to shoplifting to make ends meet.
Roughly 1 in 8 American adults (more than 25 million) reported they sometimes or often didn’t have enough food to eat in the past week, according to a U.S. Census Bureau survey in late October and early November.
The Post reports that shoplifting is significantly elevated in areas with high joblessness.
“There is a well-known historical correlation between unemployment and theft,” said Fabien Tiburce, chief executive of Compliant IA, which provides loss prevention software to retailers
In Philadelphia, retail theft reports increased by approximately 60% in March and remained at inflated levels through at least July, according to police data.
A new study by Business.org shows that 40% of small-business owners say shoplifting has increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
During the first eight months of the pandemic, there was a 222% spike in burglaries and a 10% rise in robberies inside New York City’s bodegas and corner stores, according to police department data obtained by the New York Times.
The Washington Post notes that shoplifting tends to rise during national crises (it surged 34% after the 2008 recession, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, which tracks data from U.S. courts). Items being stolen during the pandemic have largely been staple foodstuffs such as bread, pasta and baby formula. “We’re seeing an increase in low-impact crimes,” said Jeff Zisner, chief executive of workplace security firm Aegis. “It’s not a whole lot of people going in, grabbing TVs and running out the front door. It’s a very different kind of crime — it’s people stealing consumables and items associated with children and babies.” With the U.S. setting record highs for new cases and hospitalizations almost daily, the pandemic is trending in the wrong direction. Last week, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the next few months would be dire. “The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times,” declared Dr. Redfield. He went on to say that he believes this winter will be “the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”
Last week, Officer Nicholas King of the Auburn Police Department in Washington State was dispatched to a local Walmart for a shoplifting call. Upon arrival, he was informed that a mother was being held in the store’s security office for stealing warm clothes and food for her five children. King, a military veteran, decided to pay for the items instead of writing the mom a ticket, saying he believed the situation required “compassion, not enforcement.”
Shoplifting has “become much harder during the pandemic,” said Joo Park, a manager at Capitol Supermarket in Washington, D.C. “People will say, ‘I was just hungry.’ And then what do you do?”
853,000. That’s how many Americans filed new unemployment claims last week. More than 20 million Americans are currently relying on some form of unemployment assistance, and 12 million will run out of benefits if Congress does not pass a federal aid bill before the end of the year.
Stealing to survive: More Americans are shoplifting food as aid runs out during the pandemic (WaPo)
Crime Wave Hits Bodegas, Threatening a Lifeline in the Pandemic (NYT)
As Stimulus Negotiations Drag On, Pelosi Says Congress ‘Cannot Leave’ Without Passing A New Aid Bill (Forbes)
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