When people steal from a store, they do more than hurt that business and the people who own it – they hurt the community. In southeast Washington, D.C., a Giant Food store is on the brink of closure due to the amount of shoplifting that takes place, which would mean job loss for those who work there, and a food desert for the area.
D.C. Councilman Trayon White said communities “hurt ourselves” by shoplifting stores into closure. “We had the opportunity to meet with some of the leadership of this Giant,” White said. “Some of the regional leadership at this Giant, what we heard was disheartening. We learned that this Giant has lost over $500,000 in product loss, which is about 20% of the sales. We know it’s tough times and we know the price of food has skyrocketed in the last three years. But we cannot afford to hurt ourselves by constantly taking it from the store. It means that everybody is going to be without a place to eat. And enough is enough.”
White said as of mid-August, they had stopped 135 people attempting to steal from the store and about twice that many who had not been stopped. The store has invested heavily in security, but shoplifters have only gotten more brazen, simply filling their carts and walking out the door without paying.
While Mayor Muriel Bowser has said she is committed to safety and ensuring residents have “safe access to fresh, healthy and affordable food,” she has not provided any details on how she is working to make this a reality. With only four major grocery stores east of the Anacostia River – and the only one in Ward 8 – the impact of one closing could be devastating to residents.
Recently, White has said there are simply not enough law enforcement officers patrolling his neighborhood to keep up with increasing violence and even suggested it might be necessary to call in the National Guard for what feels like a “war zone.” With a murder rate in the city that has skyrocketed 28% over last year, it’s easy to understand his frustration
His neighborhood is not alone. The city has seen organized shoplifting go viral in CVS stores even in parts of town generally considered to be safe, plus a string of valet thefts and porch pirates have people on edge. Overall, property theft is up 29%, vehicle thefts are up 110%, and shoplifting is up nearly 42% since last year.
Residents, lawmakers and law enforcement need to work together to combat crime and make communities work for all of them. When cities fail to promote safety, it leaves everyone without opportunity. But, as in this case, minorities are often the hardest hit. It deprives us all of the chance to build the ties which bind communities together and, instead, creates a culture of fear and distrust among Americans.