Ann McGee, a New Yorker from the borough of Queens, doesn’t like the recent sensation she has when entering stores: fear.
“It’s not normal to be scared” when shopping, McGee says.
She’s behind a recent petition denouncing the insecurity caused by rising retail theft — sometimes by thieves operating in groups and threatening anyone near them with violence — in her neighborhood.
US retailers across the country have reported a sharp rise in theft in the last few months, alongside a worrying increase in violence.
“You cannot accept the fact that these people can go into stores without fear and choose to rob these stores and get away with it,” she said.
McGee, a grandmother and a resident of the borough for the last 41 years, said she is so concerned for her safety that she now leaves her purse and jewelry — including her wedding ring — at home when she goes shopping.
“It’s not fair” she said. “We can’t even go to stores without fear of getting hurt.”
“It has to stop and the only way to get things done is if people start getting involved,” she said. “It’s time to rally — I want to start a class action.”
In response to the recent rise in theft, some shops have begun locking up basic items like toothpaste, deodorant and tissues behind transparent doors.
– Petition –
The drugstore chain CVS was targeted in June by McGee’s petition, which she also sent to her local councilman, Democrat Robert Holden.
Holden reached out to the group’s chief executive Karen Lynch to denounce what he called “rampant retail theft” in four CVS stores and the lack of action by the company to alert the police.
“Failing to report retail theft constitutes a dereliction of duty and poses serious consequences,” he wrote in a letter to Lynch.
“It inadvertently incentivizes criminals to continue their unlawful activities while putting CVS staff and consumers in unnecessary danger,” he added.
Holden’s office told AFP that he received a response from CVS’s head of security, who pledged that all incidents would be reported to the police from now on.
But on the ground “nothing has changed,” when it comes to security, according to McGee.
“Everything is all locked up, it’s horrible. I feel like a criminal,” said McGee, a mother of four.
“I don’t like shopping like this,” she added.
“The other day, I went to CVS to buy some air freshener to put in my car. Everything was locked up,” she continued. “I didn’t buy it, I didn’t want to wait for an attendant just for that.”
In response to the recent rise in crime, McGee now shops in upstate New York where “it’s very, very secure and very safe.”
Another consequence of the recent increase in shoplifters has been rising prices, according to McGee.
“Why is it more expensive for us because of criminals getting all that for free?” she said.
“The stores make a claim to their insurance and get reimbursed,” she continued.
“You know what’s going to happen there?” she added. “These stores will close down and we’re going to be a ghost town.”