Americans are suffering in 2020, and suffering greatly. This has been a year like no other, with some of our plight arising from an uncontrollable pandemic, and the rest coming to us on account of the ineptitude of our elected officials.
There has been but one temporary bit of assistance thrown our way by our public servants, but this boost was both fleeting and insufficient for 10 months of varied lockdowns. Now, to make matters worse, a federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire at the end of the month, (just one week after the consumer-driven Christmas holiday), and still Congress can’t seem to stop the political sideshow long enough to make something happen.
This has sent a vast number of Americans into an inadvertent life of crime.
Shoplifting is up markedly since the pandemic began in the spring and at higher levels than in past economic downturns, according to interviews with more than a dozen retailers, security experts and police departments across the country. But what’s distinctive about this trend, experts say, is what’s being taken – more staples like bread, pasta and baby formula.
“We’re seeing an increase in low-impact crimes,” said Jeff Zisner, chief executive of workplace security firm Aegis. “It’s not a whole lot of people going in, grabbing TVs and running out the front door. It’s a very different kind of crime – it’s people stealing consumables and items associated with children and babies.”
The numbers are staggering.
In Philadelphia, reports of retail theft jumped about 60%, year over year, just after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in March because of the pandemic. They remained at elevated levels through at least July, according to local police data.
Though shoplifting tends to spike during national crises – it jumped 16% after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and 34% after the 2008 recession, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, which tracks data from U.S. courts – the current trend line is skewing even higher, according to Read Hayes, a criminologist at the University of Florida and the director of the Loss Prevention Research Council.
With time running out for Congress to make a deal, there is little doubt that this trend could continue through the holiday season, and possibly even into the New Year.
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