NEW YORK - Like drug stores locking up toothpaste, your local grocery store might have to start locking up meats and vegetables due to rampant shoplifting.
"People have no fear of coming to your store and stealing," Nelson Eusebio of the National Supermarket Association.
He also warns that shoplifters are becoming more violent.
"Our employees are terrified," Eusebio says. "We have young people that come to work, young cashiers who work part-time, these kids are 16-17 years old. They're traumatized."
Eusebio says that when stores call about shoplifting, police do not respond quickly and the thief can be gone for hours before officers arrive.
He says the industry is moving towards locking up food.
"Everything that is cosmetics, shampoo, baby formula is behind the counters. It's going to be more and more of that happening," Eusebio says. "We're going to have an environment where everything is behind the counter and the shopping experience is just going to be gone."
"You're not going to be able to smell the food, read the ingredients, look at a recipe, that's going to disappear if we don't do something now," Eusebio says.
The National Supermarket Association represents independent grocery stores in New York City. It's statistics show that 30% of its membership has left the city.
Frank Marte of the Bodega and Small Business Group says around 97% of the people stealing items are doing it to resell them.
"You feel for our security and employees because there's no consequence and our D.A. is not punishing them and our elected officers, they are the worst, in this case," Marte says. "We need to work with NYPD."
The industry is banding together to form a coalition called Collective Action to Protect our Stores (CAPS).
The coalition is led by the independent supermarkets of the National Super Market Association and the founding members are the National Supermarket Association, the Bodega and Small Business Group, and the Metro Supermarket Association.
Among the items they are demanding is stiffer penalties for shoplifting.