Products are locked behind glass as a person shops at...

Products are locked behind glass as a person shops at a Target store in Manhattan on Sept. 28. Credit: TNS/Spencer Platt

The Home Depot has increased spending by tens of millions of dollars for technology, security personnel and other anti-crime measures to combat the increase in theft at its stores, a company official said at a Long Island event Monday.

The retailer has seen a significant increase in organized retail crime in the past few years, Sean Browne, senior manager of Asset Protection Investigations at The Home Depot, said in Garden City at a roundtable discussion.

“I want to be clear to everyone that we’re not talking about petit shoplifting. Not theft for need, but theft for greed, and in many cases, to fund ongoing criminal enterprises,” Browne said at the event, which was held at the David Mack Center for Training and Intelligence, a training facility for police in Nassau County.

About a dozen officials participated in the roundtable. They also included representatives from Walgreens and Walmart; Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney; Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly; Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder; and Rep. Nick LaLota (R-Amityville).  The event was hosted by Rep. Anthony D’Esposito (R-Island Park). 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • The most-shoplifted store in Nassau County in 2023 was a Macy's in Garden City, which had 260 shoplifting reports.

  • Rep. Anthony D’Esposito said he planned to introduce federal legislation to help combat organized retail crime.

  • The state 2025 budget includes $40.2 million for dedicated retail theft teams.

Officials called for more cooperation between retailers and law enforcement and stricter state penalties for retail theft.

D’Esposito said he planned on Tuesday to introduce federal legislation that he authored and is co-sponsored by LaLota to help combat organized retail crime.

The legislation “would direct the secretary of Homeland Security to develop a curriculum to train state, local, tribal, territorial, and campus law enforcement agencies to identify, investigate, and report acts of organized retail crime.”

Shoplifting incidents reported to county police departments on Long Island last year rose nearly 20%, according to data Newsday obtained through Freedom of Information Law requests.

The most-shoplifted stores in Nassau County in 2023 were a Macy's in Garden City, which had 260 shoplifting reports; Target in Westbury, 237; and Walmart in Westbury, 188, according to data the police provided in April.

Newsday submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for similar data from the Suffolk County Police Department in April but has not received the information.

The increase in organized retail crime at The Home Depot is due to drug abuse driving a need for fast cash, the rise of third-party online marketplaces that allow anonymous sales of stolen goods, and “decriminalization, sustained changes in laws and policies that essentially eliminate the threat of deterrence for criminals,” Browne said.

Several attendees at the roundtable blamed the increase in shoplifting on New York State’s bail reform, which took effect in 2020. Criminal justice researchers have disputed the assertion that bail reform is responsible for the shoplifting increase.

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) hosted a roundtable discussion and...

Rep. Anthony D'Esposito (R-Island Park) hosted a roundtable discussion and a news conference on Monday in Garden City with politicians, law enforcement officials and retail representatives to discuss organized retail crime on Long Island and federal legislation that he will introduce. Credit: Newsday/Tory N. Parrish

The law ended cash bail in most cases that involved misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, including shoplifting.

An amendment that went into effect in July 2020 gave judges the authority to set bail in cases that involved harm to people or property, such as misdemeanor or felony larceny, if the suspect already had a pending case that met the same criteria. In 2022, another amendment included a clarification that harm to property can be defined as theft.

“People ask the question, 'Why are our main streets shuttered in certain places?' This is one of the reasons. It’s because, and again, not to make this political, but it’s Democrats in Albany, specifically here in New York … have implemented laws, cashless bail, criminal justice reform, without ever having a conversation with the men and women who actually put handcuffs on people,” D’Esposito said.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is committed to fighting retail theft in the state, as evidenced by anti-theft spending included in the fiscal year 2025 budget, which includes new felony penalties for assaulting retail workers, her spokesman, Gordon Tepper, told Newsday on Monday.

The budget includes $40.2 million for dedicated retail theft teams within the New York State Police, district attorneys’ offices, and local law enforcement, and a $5 million tax credit available to businesses for security enhancements.

“These measures demonstrate the Governor's unwavering commitment to public safety and her proactive approach to addressing the challenges faced by our retail sector. We are standing up to organized retail theft with the full force of the law to back our businesses and their workers,” Tepper said in an email.

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