Shoplifting has gotten so bad that chains like Rite Aid are closing hard-hit stores, sending terrified employees home in Ubers and locking up aisles of mundane items like deodorant and toothpaste, Axios reports. Retailers reeling from the pandemic, supply chain woes and the labor shortage must combat systematic looting by organized crime gangs, which are growing more aggressive and violent. "It's out of control — it is just out of control," said Lisa LaBruno of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Much of the uptick is tied to the ease of reselling stolen goods online, plus the fact that consumers are buying more everyday goods online during COVID. CVS reports a 300 percent increase in retail theft since the pandemic began..
At a Rite Aid that closed its doors in midtown Manhattan, more than $200,000 in goods were stolen in December and January. They come in every day, sometimes twice a day, with laundry bags and just load up on stuff,” said an employee. Attorneys general in states like California, Arizona and New Mexico are setting up anti-shoplifting task forces. District attorneys in cities like Chicago and New York are considering harsher measures against shoplifters. Organized retail crime groups hire homeless people and drug addicts as "boosters" to do the dirty work. Teams of "boosters" throng stores with laundry bags, grabbing what they can and assaulting workers who confront them — sometimes fatally. In addition to locking high-theft items behind anti-theft panels, retailers are arming more merchandise with alarmed security tags. They're installing shelf sensors that can tell when a customer has been browsing for a suspiciously long time, and adding "smart" shopping carts with wheels that lock if someone sneaks it past the cash register.