NEW YORK - For Lattina Brown, what she saw, or rather, what she didn't see on the empty shelves of a drug store near her Bronx home shocked her.
"I went into my local pharmacy to purchase some vitamins and when I walked into the pharmacy, I noticed that the shelves were like completely empty and I asked the workers there, like what happened to the merchandise with your vitamins? Where's your toilet paper and other essential items? I was told that people were coming in there stealing them, looting things out of the store and that they cannot touch them."
The NYPD says shoplifting from January to September in 2021 is up about 6,000 cases compared to all of last year.
Brown, who is running for New York City Council in District-17 fears this wave of petty crime will drive more major chain stores out of the Bronx.
"This is a major pharmacy, Rite Aid that caters to a lot of families who have underlying health issues. If we lose this pharmacy, we're going to be left out in the open to dry like we have people suffering with asthma, diabetes, heart conditions," Brown said. "Walgreens shut down not too long ago because they had the same issue. So we don't want this to continue to happen. There needs to be some, some type of change."
The surge in shoplifting is happening in New York City and in cities across the country. One video posted to social media shows thieves helping themselves to products at an Ulta beauty store in California. Meanwhile, Walgreens in San Francisco has announced it will close five more stores because of shoplifting.
Darrin Porcher is a retired NYPD Lieutenant. He said "It's multifaceted, one of the things is the unemployment rate is going up in the wake of the pandemic," Darrin Porcher, a retired NYPD Lieutenant told FOX 5 NY. "Secondly, we have a lot of cases of mental illness that are not being treated. So when you have the collaboration of the unemployment at a peak coupled with mental illness that's not being treated, you now have a combustible situation."
He added "I think that the security in a lot of these retail establishments should be ramped up and many retail establishments are unwilling to provide or afford themselves that additional protection. When you have uniformed security in a lot of these stores that are experiencing the greatest peak of shoplifting offenses, it creates or presents a level of omnipresence."
Some stores are responding to the increase in shoplifting by locking up inventory. You may find the next time you hit the local convenience or drug store small items like toothpaste, aspirin, or even ice cream is behind lock and key.
And some national chains are going as far as closing entire stores. Walgreens has closed stores in the San Francisco area because of large-scale theft rings.