By Joy Bergmann
Shoplifting is rising on the Upper West Side, as is NYPD’s frustration with at least one retailer, Target at 795 Columbus Avenue [98th Street].
“One-third of our petit larcenies are coming from that Target,” Deputy Inspector Naoki Yaguchi told a packed house at Wednesday evening’s 24th Precinct Community Council meeting held at Bloomingdale Library.
During the January 1st through March 13th period, the 24th recorded 369 total petit larcenies vs.178 in 2021, an increase of 107 percent, according to NYPD CompStat data. Going by Yaguchi’s math, an estimated 123 incidents were from the Target. [Petit larceny is a misdemeanor offense for theft of goods valued at under $1000; grand larceny is a felony offense for stealing items worth over $1000.]
“We are having a really serious problem with Target shoplifting. They don’t call us when it happens. They call us hours after the incident, sometimes days after the incident. It doesn’t give us a chance to try and catch the person who did it,” said Yaguchi. “In 17 years on the job, I’ve never encountered a situation where the company essentially refuses to call us. But they’re okay with calling us days later to make a report that satisfies some insurance requirements that they have.”
A local shared her experience. “I saw a shoplifter at Target filling up his bag with frozen seafood products and just walking out.” When she alerted the manager on duty, “The attitude was, ‘we have insurance; we don’t need to worry about this right now.’”
Officer Kite added, “Target’s corporate policy is they cannot call to get someone arrested until that individual has been seen stealing three consecutive times.”
Yaguchi indicated the situation may be attracting people with a propensity to commit crimes to the area. “They make calculations just like us. They know the cops aren’t coming because Target’s not calling. That, I’m sure, gets around.”
Yaguchi said he’d like to see the community put pressure on the store to change their ways. “Boycott!” exclaimed another local woman.
When called by WSR, a store manager said she could not comment on any policies, referring us to Target’s corporate team.
“All of our policies and procedures are entirely rooted in safety,” Brian Harper-Tibaldo, a Target spokesperson, told WSR. While the company does not publicly share its specific theft occurrence protocols, stores do have sophisticated security measures in place and Target works with police to apprehend offenders, he said. “Our teams contact local law enforcement whenever a guest or team member’s safety is in question or if a situation is disrupting our business.”
Target is particularly focused on stopping “organized retail crime” committed by teams of “clear the shelf” thieves, gathering video evidence of repeat offenders to help police build cases for arrests and convictions, added Harper-Tibaldo.
Among other items discussed:
Sherry Goldstein from the Fortune Society gave a brief overview of the nonprofit’s supportive and affordable housing program planned for 258 W. 97th Street. For a comprehensive look at the initiative, check out this YouTube video of Fortune’s presentation at the Upper West Side Coalition’s recent housing forum.
Catalytic converter theft remains a stubborn problem in the 2-4, especially for Honda models. Crime Prevention Officer Frankel urged drivers to consider installing catalytic converter covers on their vehicles as a deterrent; alternatively, painting the units with bright orange, heat-resistant paint may also deter thieves as it reduces their ability to sell the stolen goods. More tips here.
Phone scams by people claiming to be from Con Ed seeking payment via gift cards for “overdue bills” continue to ensnare UWS victims, said Frankel. Hang up on anyone asking for payments in gift cards, crypto currency, money orders or wire transfers, says NYPD. Learn more here.
Package thieves often repeatedly target the same residential buildings. If goods get swiped, NYPD encourages victims to file a report so officers can better detect patterns and conduct surveillance. In one of several success stories shared Wednesday, Officer Blease noted how a building worked with the 24th to post pictures of a suspect in its lobby, leading to an arrest.
Finally, some WSR readers have expressed a desire for the return of “beat” cops. They still exist, in an updated form.
As Yaguchi explained, each NYPD precinct has dedicated Neighborhood Coordination Officers called NCOs who focus their efforts on specific geographies in the precinct and lead smaller community meetings to address that area’s concerns. “Steady sector” officers like Officers Kite and Blease support that work by intensively patrolling their assigned areas. “They are here to solve problems,” said Yaguchi.
24th Precinct residents can connect with their NCOs by first noting whether your address is in Sector A, B or C, per the map below. Then, email your designated officers, per the list below. Follow the 24th Precinct on Twitter to stay apprised of upcoming NCO meetings and local crime concerns.
The next 24th Precinct Community Council meeting will be held Wednesday, April 20th, at 7:00 p.m. at Bloomingdale Library 150 W. 100th Street.