NYC drugstores experiencing shoplifting crisis

A higher number of New York City shoplifters are picking pharmacies, according to the NYPD, who say many of your neighborhood drug stores are choosing to close their doors. Police also point to the city's bail reform policies as only making the situation worse. 

Pasteur Pharmacy on the Upper East Side is a small shop that still has its products out on display on the shelves — something you may not see at your local chain pharmacy due to shrinkage, a corporate term for shoplifting. 

"The way they handle it is by putting everything under lock and key," pharmacist and owner Leon Tarasenko said. "I can't deal with my customers in that respect." 

Over the last six months, Tarasenko said he has watched shoplifting in his store get worse. He has responded by putting more staff on the floor and confronting the thieves. 

FOX 5 NY asked him what he thinks is behind the rise in petty theft. 

"People can come in and they just don't care," Tarasenko said. "They just come, they get arrested, and they're let out. I think that's the same old story you're hearing day in and day out." 

People are witnessing the thefts and are even capturing cell phone video of thieves pocketing products, undeterred.

"There are no repercussions for actions and that needs to be addressed," Tarasenko said. 

New York City police officials agree. At a news conference last week, Chief Michael Lipetri said shoplifting in the city is at its highest levels, with complaints up by nearly 18,000. 

"Pharmacies that continue to get preyed on across the city," Lipetri said. "And guess what? Continue to get closed at alarming rates." 

Rite Aid recently closed a location in Hell's Kitchen after more than $200,000 in product was stolen over two months. 

"We experienced unexpected headwinds this quarter from front-end shrink, particularly in our New York urban stores," Rite Aid CEO Heyward Donigan said on a company conference call in September. 

CVS has warned that about 10% of its stores will close nationwide. 

But these chain pharmacies are blaming the post-pandemic economy, not crime. Pharmaceutical industry expert and Rutgers professor Dr. Mahmud Hassan said he agrees. 

"The pandemic has basically changed people's minds," Hasan said. "Almost nobody goes inside stores, and they are using Amazon and online and ordering. I myself do the same thing." 

But Tarasenko, like the NYPD, said city policy is perpetuating the problem. And pharmacies like his remain the preeminent target among shoplifters.

"It used to be years ago they would spend a few days in jail or go through the system," Tarasenko said. "Now, they just let them out." 

FOX 5 NY reached out the big chains to confirm just how many stores they're closing in the city but they did not respond. 

In September, Rite Aid reported $5 million in losses in just three months due to shoplifting and said its store may start locking every product behind shelf-cases.