By Katabella Roberts
Amid a surge in shoplifting crimes in New York City, one of the Big Apple’s largest shopping districts has hired K-9 units in an effort to protect businesses and sniff out thieves.
The 34th Street Partnership, a not-for-profit, private management company that overseas business improvements in the city, including in Macy’s Herald Square, Penn Station, and Madison Square Garden, launched the initiative at the CVS at Eighth Avenue and West 34th Street earlier this month.
The company hired Stapleton Security Services, led by a retired veteran of the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit, which will deploy three dogs and handlers to take shifts at the entrance of the store as well as outside its doors amid a surge in crime.
“We’ve had a lot of complaints. A lot of shoplifting occurs in drugstores,” Kevin Ward, the vice president of security for the 34th Street Partnership, told the New York Post. “We’re trying to address the issue.”
The dogs that will be deployed to the store include a Czechoslovakian shepherd named Drako, a Belgian malinois named Emirs, and a German shepherd named Del. However, the dogs will not actively engage in pursuits and will instead serve as deterrents to criminals.
The decision comes amid a surge in shoplifting crimes across the city that is seriously impacting local businesses.
A New York Post analysis of police data earlier this month showed that complaints of shoplifting surged 45 percent year on year to 63,000 in 2022, up from 45,000. Compared to the mid-2000s, the number of shoplifting complaints was up nearly 275 percent, according to the analysis.
Adams Says Shoplifting Costing Retail Workers
Earlier this month, New York City mayor Eric Adams said shoplifting was costing low-income retail workers their jobs and further exacerbating unemployment issues.
“We’re losing chain stores that are closing down,” Adams said during the annual budget presentation in Albany on Feb. 15. “People who are being employed in those stores are losing their jobs. They’re adding to our unemployment,” he said, adding that “poor and low-income New Yorkers are being unemployed because we’re losing those businesses in our city.”
However, the rise in shoplifting is not localized solely to New York and has been seen around various parts of the country, prompting stores to implement stronger methods to deter shoplifters, such as placing security tags on food items and putting up more cameras in aisles.
Just recently, sneaker maker Nike called for off-duty police officers to provide security at the company’s northeast Portland community store to grant a more safe and secure workplace for employees, consumers, and communities.
Walmart and Target are among some of the many stores that have said the rise in shoplifting across the United States could lead to higher prices and more store closures.
Nationwide, retail theft has become a nearly $100 billion problem, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2022 National Retail Security Survey (pdf).
As for New York, Ward said the sniffer dogs, which are costing The 34th Street Partnership “low-five figures monthly,” already seem to be having a positive impact.
Thus far, the K-9 units have prevented at least 25 thefts over a five-day period between Feb. 15–19, according to the New York Post, and have deterred plenty more.
“It’s effective so far,” Ward said. “We’ve had a couple of people who were known shoplifters who saw the dog and walked out without stealing anything.”