A small business owner contacted me and complained about shoplifters who were “robbing him blind.”

The store owner told me he has barely recovered from the vandalism and theft incurred on his business during the 2020 riots in Philadelphia, and now he fears more of his merchandise will be stolen by shoplifters than actually sold to customers during the holiday shopping season.   

“If it were one or two shoplifters, I could handle them, but it’s an organized mob that invades my store. The shoplifters attack in a wave that overwhelms my staff and scares my customers.  

“And if I use a gun or a baseball bat to protect my property and merchandise from these shoplifters, I’ll be the one to go to jail. It is a topsy-turvy, lawless world in Philadelphia today.”

READ MORE — Ben Mannes: Questions about the accuracy of Philadelphia’s homicide statistics

The Retail Industry Leaders Association and Buy Safe America Coalition released a report last year that examined the rise in organized criminal activity targeting local retailers and quantified the economic impact these crimes are having on local retailers and communities. 

Beyond the startling economic impact, the report also details the significant impact retail crimes are having on employees, who increasingly encounter more brazen and violent theft in stores. The report was titled “The Impact of Organized Retail Crime and Product Theft in the United States.” 

The authors noted that “the report quantified the onslaught of news stories about criminal activity targeting local retailers, in particular organized and professional theft rings that steal merchandise in large quantities. These syndicates have increasingly turned to online marketplaces like Amazon and Facebook to fence mass quantities of stolen product quickly and anonymously to unsuspecting consumers.” 

The author also noted that the study, which was conducted using exclusive data provided by some of the largest retailers in the country, provides new insights into the economic impact of retail crime:

  • As much as $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers in 2019 (pre-Covid).
  • Retail crime results in $125.7 billion in lost economic activity and 658,375 fewer jobs, paying almost $39.3 billion in wages and benefits to workers.  
  • Retail theft costs federal and state governments nearly $15 billion in personal and business tax revenues, not including the lost sales taxes.

The impact on front line retail workers can no longer be ignored by policymakers,” said Ben Dugan, President of the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR). “As these crimes have become more organized and brazen, they have also led to more violence against employees. These crimes are not just property crimes, they impact the safety of everyone in the store.”

Steve Francis, the Executive Associate Director with Homeland Security Investigations, added, “Organized retail crime is leading to more brazen and more violent attacks in retail stores throughout the country. Many of the criminal rings orchestrating these thefts are also involved in other serious criminal activity such as human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, weapon trafficking, and more. Tackling this growing threat is important to the safety of store employees, customers, and communities across the country.” 

It seems to me that more and more small businesses will go under because of Santa’s little self-helpers. It appears that in Philadelphia, these brazen organized shoplifters have a license to steal.

In 2020, the National Retail Federation’s Organized Retail Crime Survey focused on the scope of organized retail crime activity, retailers’ resources for fighting it, and the overall impact on the industry. The study surveyed 61 retailers to understand the trends surrounding the growing issue of organized crime.

According to the study, Philadelphia was among the top ten cities affected by organized retail crime. Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami were the top three.

The retail store owner I spoke to places the blame squarely on Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, known by career criminals as “Let ‘Em Loose Larry.”    

“In order to end mass incarceration and bring back balance to sentencing,” Krasner wrote in his February 2018 memo to his prosecutors that spelled out his new shoplifting policy, “charge and dispose of Retail Theft as summary offenses unless the value of the item(s) stolen in a particular case exceeds $500.00 or where the defendant has a very long history of theft and retail convictions.

“You must seek supervisory approval to charge and dispose of Retail Theft cases at misdemeanor or felony levels.”

Note to DA Krasner: There is no such thing as “mass incarceration.” Everyone in prison was placed there individually after their trial and conviction.

It seems to me that more and more small businesses will go under because of Santa’s little self-helpers. It appears that in Philadelphia, these brazen organized shoplifters have a license to steal. 

Paul Davis is a Philadelphia writer who covers crime.

3 thoughts on “Paul Davis: Santa’s little self-helpers”

  1. At some point all retail will be conducted over the Internet with the Smile or FedEx making home deliveries. At that point the violent thieves will appear at your front door, and you can have the fun experience of having your stuff stolen and your life threatened. I don’t believe that the ideology of folks like Larry Krasner really incorporates the believe the justice system is in need of “woke,” as much as it is a concerted attempt to force people to become dependent on the government and thus be able to control them. Power and money are the prime drivers here.

  2. What a sickening feeling it is to witness this. And the store employees are terrorized for long periods of time. FUBAR!!

  3. I wonder how many of the victimized store owners and traumatized employees voted straight Democrat? Elections matter.

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