Retail Theft Rises in NYC; Stores Close and Reduce Self-Checkouts


DALLAS (Truth Voices) — Major retailers nationwide continue to face serious challenges with shoplifting, especially in the nation’s largest city.

In New York City, the latest data shows there have been nearly 23,000 complaints of retail theft in 2024, a 4.9% increase from the same time period last year. It could be part of why some big chains are scaling back on self-checkout options or closing stores altogether.

According to shoplifting statistics by Capital One Shopping research, retail theft losses grew 19.4% year-over-year in 2022, with losses to theft increasing 10.5%.

Annually, the retail industry saw an estimated $112 billion in financial losses associated with theft in 2022, according to the National Retail Federation. It’s tough to contextualize that amount of money, but consumers might be able to see the effects of shoplifting concerns playing out at their neighborhood stores.

Retail giants limit self-checkout lanes

Target recently announced a limit of 10 items total at its self-checkout lanes. It also announced last fall that it would be closing nine stores across four states because of theft and organized retail crime.

Dollar General and Walmart are among chains that also announced cutbacks on self-checkout options.

A Washington, D.C., CVS that went viral for its barren shelves closed at the end of February, with customers and security workers citing retail theft. Customers also told Truth Voices they’ve witnessed large groups of teens walk into the store and run out with merchandise.

In a statement to Truth Voices, CVS would not say if crime played a role in its decision to close the store.

The company said, in part, “Factors include local market dynamics, population shifts, a community’s store density, and ensuring there are other geographic access points to meet the needs of the community.”

Some major chains haven’t been afraid to place the blame on crime within the past year.

Target, Walmart and Nike all attributed major closures in different cities across the country at least in part to retail crime and theft.

Lawmakers propose retail theft legislation

States have been working to tighten laws to prevent organized retail theft. But now, lawmakers in Washington are considering federal legislation.

In California, proposed legislation — SB 1446 — would prohibit self-checkout at certain stores if they don’t meet these conditions: 10 items or less, at least one staffed checkout station, no alcohol or tobacco products, and no monitoring of more than one self-checkout lane at a time.

“We have to act now to look at this problem … that we have a full-service lane open before allowing a self-checkout machine to open, we want a ratio of staffing for one employee to two checkout machines, one worker to twelve machines is unacceptable,” said California State Sen. Lola Smallwood-Cuevas, who proposed the bill.

However, some groups are expressing concerns about the proposed legislation, citing employee safety and self-checkout convenience.

“You know, the other problem with this concept is that everyday store employees are not trained, nor are they tasked with intervening when it comes to retail theft,” said Nate Rose, senior director of communications for California Grocers Association.

Rose said thieves will find other ways to shoplift no matter what laws are in place.

Just earlier this month, a San Francisco woman was convicted of stealing more than $60,000 worth of merchandise from a Target store by pretending to pay for the items at self-checkout machines. She now faces up to three years in prison.

Truth Voices’s KRON contributed to this report.

Stephanie Haines
Stephanie Haines
Dallas-based correspondent. Stephanie previously worked at TMJ4 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she often covered state politics, crime, and court cases. She covered the Kyle Rittenhouse trial gavel to gavel. Before Milwaukee, she worked at WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee, and WJFW in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Stephanie is a 2015 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

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