Lawmakers on Monday expressed outrage over a shoplifting crisis that is killing local businesses — including calling for a return to 1990s-style law enforcement after complaints from nearly 4,000 grocers.
“It is absolutely ridiculous that a small subset of professional criminals account for 30% of shoplifting arrests in 2022,” said City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), citing alarming statistics revealed by the NYPD last week that a total of 327 career shoplifters were arrested. of about 6600 times.
“We can’t have this revolving door of crime in our state — it’s time to dust off the successful tactics from the ’90s in New York that actually worked to reduce crime.”
Councilwoman Julie Menin (D-Manhattan), who chairs the Small Business Committee, also said she plans a joint hearing with the Public Safety Committee because “we urgently need solutions to address this problem.”
On Sunday, The Post exclusively reported that a new coalition of grocers is demanding a repeal of the state’s controversial 2019 bail reform law to target “repeat theft offenders” and a new law so prosecutors can join cases and charge a serial thief with a felony the offense of theft instead of multiple offenses.
The group Collective Action to Protect our Stores also wants retail workers covered by the same law that makes assaulting police officers, MTA workers and livery drivers a felony.
State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt (R-Lockport) said he is “very confident” his GOP conference will “absolutely support” the CAPS proposals “and maybe even additional ones.”
But “getting my colleagues across the aisle to commit a new crime – I might be able to invent a new fusion power cell faster than that,” he said.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R-Fulton) also said that business owners are “rightly fed up and things have to change.
“The attacks and damage that store owners are suffering is a direct result of Democrats turning a blind eye to crime,” Barclay said. “Increasing penalties for repeat offenders is overdue and something Albany should do now.”
Rep. Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) has described herself as the “lone wolf in Albany” among Democrats when it comes to rolling back bail reform.
“You have to have some common sense thinking. There must be some changes,” she said.
“I went into the fish market the other day and someone just walked in, stole the biggest fish and walked out. I thought it was terrible.”
Dickens added: “This is ridiculous. These crimes are happening in communities of color… Our small business owners — black, brown, Asian owned — are struggling to survive.”
A spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who has been criticized for being soft on crime, said “the uptick in shoplifting that we’re seeing across the city in the wake of COVID is unacceptable” and that Bragg’s office used a provision known as “damage to harm” to seek bail for serial shoplifters on a case-by-case basis.
Bragg’s office did not say how many times he actually invoked the rule, which The Post revealed last month was used against ex-con Wilfredo Ocasi after he was arrested in 27 new Manhattan pharmacy thefts.
The move came after Bragg’s office previously said it was pursuing only two of nearly two dozen other cases against Ocasio because it would be a “waste of resources” to pursue justice in each one.
Queens State’s Attorney Melinda Katz also said, “I have and will continue to effectively use the harm-on-harm doctrine to go after the most common offenders,” and Brooklyn DA’s spokesman Eric Gonzalez said prosecutors “have done this before with serial thieves.”
Bronx District Attorney’s spokesman Darcel Clark said prosecutors are “seeking bail for retail theft repeat offenders” and said the DA’s Office of Criminal Strategies has identified “57 top repeat offenders,” of which “17 are currently incarcerated, six have sought treatment , and 16 cases are pending.”
Staten Island Attorney General Michael McMahon said, “I applaud and wholeheartedly support the CAPS Coalition for sending a message to Albany and City Hall to demand justice for our hardworking, honest business owners. They deserve our full support as they survive in a sea of lawlessness.”
Meanwhile, away from the bustling Big Apple, Albany District Attorney David Soares said he’s seen “similar trends in theft in our jurisdiction” and advocated “aggregation” of cases so thieves can be charged with crimes.
“We support all measures that allow prosecutors to do their jobs more efficiently,” Soares said. “Not only does repeated theft have a negative effect on the business, but failure to stop the cycle also has a negative effect on the defendant, who may need intervention and treatment.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) dodged The Post’s question about the reform proposals Monday, saying, “I think we have to understand that justice is actually being served in the resolution of the case.”
A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) declined to comment, and a spokesman for Gov. Kathy Hochul walked back comments she made last week.
“I’m going to take a very thorough look at public safety in a few days in my home state [address]”, Hochul told reporters on Friday.
That speech is scheduled for Tuesday at 1 p.m.