Loud and steady speakers filled the night air with soft, ominous music as New York retail workers – a lot of them professional thieves – moved through downtown Union Square just after 9pm. To a shopper, it would have seemed like New York City is making a peace offering, as a display of calm while this place comes to the near collapse of one of the great American cities and the world.
But in order to prevent the collapse of one of America’s great cities, and the lives of its residents, the city needs to take quick and harsh action against the problem of stealing.
There has been an incredible growth in the number of robberies in New York City, a 75 percent increase in the number of robberies in the first six months of this year compared to the same period last year, according to the New York Police Department. Forty-eight separate retail stores have been robbed in the first nine months of 2018. The loss resulting from those thefts is more than $1.5 million.
It’s possible that more retailers are adding security cameras in their stores. We do know that the number of stores in Union Square has increased, from 834 in 2005 to 1,044 today. But that doesn’t explain what’s taking place.
Red flag, if there ever was one. Or maybe you have no doubt that having more cameras, public lighting, signage, and clearly labeled registers where the clerk can see the actual amount of cash in the machine is in no way close to being the sole solution. There is a much larger problem that needs to be addressed.
While the increase in crimes of violence in this city is a very serious problem, the theft problem is completely different. Yes, crimes of violence are clearly a greater concern for law enforcement. The Economic Security Plan, developed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Letitia James, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and Governor-elect Phil Murphy to “help make our city a safer place to live, work, raise families, and play.” has a page on law enforcement and public safety. Theft, or at least the large thefts – burglary, assault, larceny – is “page six.” Very frustratingly small changes to simple daily parking scenarios, at least as a physical representation, would have a much greater impact on crime, and crime alone.
Earlier this year, Detective Shaun Murray from the Manhattan Police Department’s robbery unit spoke about the consequences of shopping on the evening shift. If you are one of the few store employees who has access to the cash register at night, well, this is probably not a good idea.
“During the evening hours, people don’t necessarily understand what’s going on in a store. They are not always paying attention,” Detective Murray told WSVN-TV Channel 7 in Miami. “People know what they’re looking for and it’s not necessarily on the sales floor, but inside.”
He went on to say that they have worked to help retailers make improvements in security. One of the ideas that they propose is to better staff the registers by having a record of what registers have been used, and to use technology like video surveillance to help prevent employee theft.
As cities across the world like New York or London, or even Dallas, are increasingly alarmed by the number of thefts, and loss, being reported, the conversation has only begun. While the dialogue is just beginning, surely Amazon is among those who are suggesting that as early as next year, they will have an automated checkout kiosk in every store. It would be an excellent place to start.
Then again, it would be all too easy for the thief.