New York City Drug Store Shelves Are Barren Amid Surge in Shoplifting

Rampant retail theft in New York City has caused essential items to become uncommon luxuries on drugstore shelves. A Manhattan resident claimed, “It looks like the Third World,” after observing the aisles of a CVS on Sixth Avenue in Soho, which was severely low on toothpaste, face wash, and hand sanitizer, among a lengthy list of other goods. A CVS employee told the New York Post, “They’ve all been stolen.”

State bail reform rules have made stealing a viable career option for certain thieves in New York City. According to a recent investigation by The Post, Isaac Rodriguez, 22, of Queens, was caught stealing 46 times this year alone. Rodriguez is accused of stealing 37 times from Walgreens alone, reportedly stealing anything from protein drinks to soap, infant formula, and body creams, just filling a bag with things and leaving without paying.

According to New York City police commissioner Dermot Shea, the fault lies squarely with Albany’s corridors of power. In reaction to The Post’s article, Shea tweeted, “Insanity. No other way to describe the resulting crime that has flowed from disastrous bail reform law.”

Aisles lined with essential products are a jackpot for criminals. Even when apprehended, most shoplifters usually walk free the next day, and cases against them are frequently dropped.

According to NYPD sources, 77 additional thieves are walking free on the streets of New York with 20 or more shoplifting offenses. As of Sept. 12, the city had received 26,385 retail theft reports, the largest recorded since 1995 and a 32% increase over 2020 in which 20,024 cases were reported, and a 38% increase from 2014 with 19,166 reports.

At a dozen CVS, Duane Reade/Walgreens, and Rite Aid locations across the city, New York Post reporters discovered bare shelves, some shockingly devoid of nearly every possible need: cereal, batteries, hand soap, diapers, paper products, tampons, and infant formula at each one. More luxury items such as lipstick, nail polish, and nutrition drinks were also missing from shelves.

A police officer guarding a Duane Reade in Manhattan’s Lower East Side was quoted saying, “There’s a lot of theft here.” The officer also explained that guard duty at the store had become a regular part of the neighborhood patrol.

A recent report from the Wall Street Journal claims that retailers are the target of a $45 billion organized theft campaign, with stolen products largely being resold on Amazon. Additionally, global supply chain issues have contributed to product shortages across the country.

CVS spokesman Matthew Blanchette told The Post, “Product supply challenges are currently impacting most of the retail industry. We’re continuing to work with our vendors to address this issue, and we regret any inconvenience that our customers may be experiencing.”

San Francisco has also recently dealt with a string of brazen thefts wreaking havoc on local businesses.

Meanwhile, retailers around the country are having trouble finding employees to restock shelves, and trucking businesses are having trouble finding drivers to make critical deliveries.


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