Shoplifting surge in NYC fuels black market where thieves resell stolen goods to unsuspecting customers
By Cassie B. // Apr 01, 2024

Shoplifting is surging in New York, and it’s creating a strong resale economy with stolen items being sold in online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace and eBay.

The Council on Criminal Justice reported that shoplifting in New York City skyrocketed 64 percent from June 2019 to June 2023, and Governor Kathy Hochul recently revealed that retailers in New York state lost $4.4 billion to shoplifting in 2022 alone.

Many of the goods that have been stolen are being used to fuel a thriving underground economy in which thieves and middlemen sell stolen items on retail sites. Police raids of warehouse spaces used by these criminal rings have uncovered troves of stolen goods along with bags of removed security tags and other signs of criminal activity.

Some of these are highly organized operations that have ringleaders giving shoplifters “shopping lists" that list items such as handbags, power tools and cell phones that they are tasked with stealing. A middleman will then buy the stolen items for just pennies on the dollar and then the items are distributed via online marketplaces or even storefronts in some cases.

Many of those who conduct operations online either maintain several identities or sell one item and then list the next one immediately in an attempt to appear more like typical users and avoid having a high volume of items for sale at any given time.

A report from the National Retail Federation and the private security firm K2 investigated listings for the types of items that organized retail theft rings typically target, such as diapers, Tide Pods and items listed as being “new with tag.” They found that 26 percent of all listings in New York for such items had telltale signs of being part of organized retail crime.

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Another method used by thieves bypasses online marketplaces altogether. Instead, criminals shoplift big-ticket items from national chains and then return them at a different branch of the chain in another state for credit before selling the credit note for quick cash outside the store.

Shoplifters are reselling stolen perishable food

Thieves are also shoplifting food, including perishable items and turning it around quickly. A director for Morton Williams Supermarkets in NYC, Victor Collelo, told the New York Post: “Shoplifters steal bacon and steak from us; then they are down in the subway, selling them to people. A girl who worked for me told me about getting her hair done in the Bronx. A guy was in there, taking orders from people, asking what kind of food they wanted. Then he was going to Morton Williams and stealing it.”

Another popular target is premium ice cream. The CEO of Gristedes, John Catsimatidis, said that shoplifters are stealing Haagen-Dazs ice cream from their stores and then selling it to nearby bodegas.

The chain’s head of security, Dominick Albergo, explained: “The shoplifters come in with a garbage bag, put 30 containers into the bag and take off. Then we find them in the bodegas and tell the bodega owners that if we find them again, we will go to the precinct and have them locked up."

“The good news is, at that point, most of the bodegas got nervous about buying stolen goods,” he added.

Police break up $3.5m retail theft ring

In 2022, police arrested 41 people connected to a massive $3.5 million retail theft ring that regularly stole goods from Sephora, Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Duane Reade and resold the items on eBay.

The group’s ringleader would purchase items for around six to eight percent of their retail value from shoplifters and then sell them. Law enforcement seized nearly $4 million in stolen retail items, $300,000 in cash and more than 550 stolen gift cash cards as part of their investigation.

Given the lack of accountability for criminals in New York City and other liberal-run cities, it is not surprising to see shoplifting and other crimes surging.

Sources for this article include:

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