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Mayor Adams rolls out plan to crackdown on retail theft

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(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is cracking down on retail theft with a new plan to allow businesses to share video surveillance with the New York Police Department in real-time through closed-circuit television.

The plan will expand a video surveillance program that allows convenience stores and other retail outlets to connect their surveillance camera systems to a local NYPD precinct, allowing law enforcement to get real-time information to solve robberies and shoplifting crimes.

The plan would also create a neighborhood retail watch program and set up a specialized task force within the NYPD to respond to shoplifting incidents.

“New Yorkers don’t feel like things are working when everything from toothpaste to laundry detergent is locked up, and businesses across the five boroughs should be able to operate without fear of losing income because of retail theft,” Adams said in a statement. “We cannot allow shoplifters and organized crime rings to prey on businesses any longer.”

The NYPD recently entered into a $1.5 million, one-year agreement with Fusus by Axon, a private company that operates the cameras, to expand the program to nine additional precincts in all five boroughs. The contract followed a pilot project in a Queens NYPD precinct.

Deployment of the surveillance cameras will be based on several factors, including community input, quality-of-life complaints and crime data, the Adams administration said.

New York City has seen a dramatic increase in retail theft, with more than 20,000 cases of shoplifting reported over the past five years and more than 2,000 grand larceny cases involving thefts over of $1,000, according to the NYPD.

NYPD Police Commissioner Edward Caban said the new policy will make policing shoplifting “more efficient” and help reach the administration’s “goal of eradicating the pervasive crime of retail theft.”

“The capability of business owners to share information with the detectives quickly and seamlessly is key,” Caban said. “It launches more effective investigations, builds stronger cases, and leads to more effective prosecutions.”

The camera surveillance program is free and voluntary for retailers. Adams’ plan also calls for prevention and intervention strategies to address the underlying causes of retail theft.

Adams said the same 500 or so people were arrested 7,600 times last year for retail theft, accounting for about 30% of the city’s shoplifting cases.

Last month, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a $45 million plan to crack down on retail theft. The plan, which was included in the recently signed state budget, gives state prosecutors the ability to seek tougher charges against shoplifters, sets aside $25 million for a retail theft unit within the state police, $15 million for district attorneys, and $5 million to help businesses with security.

“Retail incidents involving physical force have more than doubled,” Hochul said in recent remarks. “This is just not stealing anymore, this is harming.”