Rampant theft is devastating Bronx small businesses

The Adams administration is looking to craft a strategic plan to combat retail theft across the five boroughs. Theft is up across the city. But in the Bronx, businesses and the local economy are being especially devastated by crime.  

Running a bodega in the Bronx isn't what it used to be. Store owners and shopkeepers say they witness shoplifting in their businesses every day. The constant theft is threatening their survival.  

Desire Soto of Joy's Grocery and Deli, a bodega at 1400 Grand Concourse, said she's scared. Theft is costing the bodega so much that she is worried she will be fired or the store will have to shut down.  

Retail theft was the topic of a citywide summit, hosted by Mayor Eric Adams, who brought together stakeholders hoping to come up with a strategic plan to combat the crime, which he said is undermining the city's economic recovery.  

Zaid Nagi, the co-founder of the Yemeni Americans Merchant Association, attended the summit.

"Merchants are leaving the city, honestly," Nagi said.

Theft is changing the way Nagi's members do businesses. Store owners are raising prices, shutting down early, and opting not to sell products that attract theft, such as baby formula. 

"You see corridor after corridor, street after street, block after block, where stores have now closed because they cannot withstand the amount of theft that's happening," said Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark, who also attended the summit.

This year alone, close to 61,000 calls to police reported theft at Bronx businesses, nearly triple what it was three years ago, according to the Bronx Chamber of Commerce. Attendees of the summit attribute the rise to the lack of legal consequences.

"One corridor alone, on 138 to be very specific, you had a young man, 17 years old, who is going into the stores, the same stores, almost on a daily basis and taking," Bronx Chamber of Commerce President Lisa Sorin said. "And his answer to some of these store owners who got used to seeing him was, 'There's really nothing you can do about it.' Right. Is he wrong? Probably not. He's young. Is he stealing large amounts? No. But any amount impacts the bottom line for these small businesses."

Around 27,000 businesses are located in the Bronx; 80% are micro-businesses. They just don't have the money for high-tech theft prevention like security systems, gates, and Plexiglas, which is why the business community is asking the city to help.  

Whether it's grant funding, a larger police presence, or sharper consequences for repeat offenders, Adams said he would release a summary of theft-prevention strategies in 30 days.  

"It was good to have everybody in the room to hear the pain that is happening," Clark said, "but also hope for the progress that can happen with this."