Monroe County

Monroe County battles rising retail theft

Monroe County, New York – Monroe County is grappling with a significant issue that impacts both consumers and retailers: rampant retail theft. This growing problem not only affects store revenues but also drives up the cost of shopping for everyone, particularly during the holiday season. As prices rise, part of the reason can be traced back to stores attempting to recover substantial losses incurred due to theft.

In a revealing move, four major retailers in Monroe County disclosed their financial losses to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. The figures were staggering, showing a combined loss of $7 million in this year alone due to theft. Monroe County Sheriff Todd Baxter expressed concern about the broader impact of these losses on the community. “Who is paying for it? We’re paying for it,” Baxter said. He highlighted the disproportionate effect on the less affluent members of the community, who are ultimately bearing the brunt of these increased costs.

Sheriff Baxter shared an anecdote from his patrol experience in the city’s north side. He recounted an incident at a Rite Aid, where the manager reported that thieves had struck the store seven times in a single day. Baxter emphasized the long-term consequences of such frequent thefts, including the potential closure of stores, which would leave communities without essential services like prescription fulfillment.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has responded to this crisis by forming a retail-theft taskforce. However, they soon discovered a discrepancy: the profit-loss statements from retailers did not align with the number of criminal complaints filed. Baxter learned that many retailers refrain from reporting thefts for various reasons, including fear of confrontation, concerns about negative publicity, or a sense of futility.

Baxter pointed out that the $7 million loss figure only accounts for the four stores collaborating with the taskforce. He suspects that the total losses, including unreported thefts from smaller businesses and other large retailers in Monroe County, amount to millions more.

Another troubling aspect of this issue is the link between retail theft and addiction. Sheriff Baxter observed that many repeat offenders steal to support their addictions. Despite law enforcement efforts, the response has been limited to issuing appearance tickets and suggesting help. Baxter highlighted the ineffectiveness of this approach, noting that 50% of those issued tickets failed to appear in court, with some even suffering overdoses.

In response to these challenges, Sheriff Baxter plans to advocate for legislative changes. He aims to propose the creation of a “repeat offender status” in the next state legislative session. This would allow judges to send individuals with multiple appearance tickets for the same crime within 30 days to jail, where they could access addiction treatment programs. Baxter’s proposal reflects a growing recognition of the need for more effective responses to the intertwined issues of retail theft and addiction, seeking solutions that not only address crime but also offer rehabilitative support.

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