Retailers in New York state suffered record losses last year amid an epidemic of organized theft — and according to many store owners, Governor Kathy Hochul has ensured that there’s no end in sight. Even as businesses across the state are reporting a combined $4.4 billion in stolen merchandise in 2022, the New York governor vetoed a bipartisan bill to create a state-wide task force to combat retail theft.

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As Valuetainment previously reported, retail locations across the country have suffered from a plague of “flash mob robberies,” in which bands of thieves ransack stores and make off with armloads of items within minutes. Law enforcement agencies believe that these thefts, often organized via group messaging apps, are coordinated by third-party sellers that buy the stolen goods from the thieves and flip them for a profit online.

New York has been no exception to this trend, and losses sustained across the state have been on the rise. According to a New York Times report from this summer, New York City’s smash-and-grab problem can be traced back to a mere 327 people … but even so, law enforcement is unable to control the situation. These repeat offenders have been arrested and rearrested more than 3,000 times in total.

Police in other cities have reported similar spikes in retail theft, including a 55 percent increase in shoplifting since 2021 in Syracuse — and based on retailers’ reluctance to report theft, this is a conservative estimate. In every city, law enforcement officials have blamed progressive, soft-on-crime prosecutors for the problem.

New York stores suffered record losses in 2022 amid an epidemic of organized retail theft—and Governor Kathy Hochul just vetoed a new anti-theft taskforce.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul vetoed a bipartisan anti-retail theft task force. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

With countless stores on the verge of shutting down for good, state legislators proposed a 15-man task force made up of law enforcement, retailers, and policymakers to review current laws and assess economic impact.

But last week, Governor Hochul slapped an executive veto on the bipartisan measure, claiming that the $35 million required for the task force was simply not in the state’s budget.

“Retailers throughout the state are extremely disappointed to learn that Governor Hochul vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have established the New York State Organized Retail Crime Task Force,” the Retail Council of New York State said in a statement. “Stores that invest in New York communities lose $4.4 billion to retail theft, and this illegal activity certainly has community safety implications.”

So far this year, police in the capital city of Albany have arrested nearly 2,300 people for larceny and 340 for vehicle theft, with 23 of those calls fielded from a single Stewart’s convenience store. The five-year average for these offenses is 2,057 and 281 respectively.

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