Pick-pockets preying on customers at local Trader Joe’s markets

Trader Joe’s market on Sixth Avenue (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

The NYPD wants help from Trader Joe’s to stop pickpocketing in their stores but the California-based grocer reportedly does not want to spare the expense. Thirteenth Precinct Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman said that the company has been unwilling to install security cameras in their stores to aid the police department in catching sticky-fingered suspects who have reportedly been stealing from other customers in the store.

“They’ve been targeting Trader Joe’s because they know they can get away with it,” Hellman told Town & Village of the suspects. “When we don’t have video, it’s almost impossible to make any arrests on these cases. The lack of cooperation from Trader Joe’s shows a lack of empathy for the victims and the people shopping at their stores.”

Police said that after a handful of unattended property thefts this summer, the NYPD was able to convince the company to install security cameras but the cameras were ultimately removed before officers were even able to get access to the footage through a warrant for one of the recent cases.

A representative from corporate at Trader Joe’s reportedly told the NYPD that cameras were removed after about a month because the company didn’t think it was cost effective since this was primarily “an issue unique to New York” and they were tired of getting inundated with requests.

The Trader Joe’s on Sixth Avenue between West 21st and 22nd Street is technically the only location for the store in the 13th precinct — the Union Square Trader Joe’s is located in the 9th precinct since it is on the south side of East 14th Street — but Hellman said that the NYPD is having similar problems with locations throughout the city because of the lack of video surveillance available.

Police told Town & Village that two women are suspected in a pattern throughout the city in 20 separated incidents starting earlier this year, with five of the incidents taking place in the Sixth Avenue location between March and November. The women were arrested in connection with one of the incidents and are suspected in a number of others, but police said that they can’t officially connect them to the crimes.

Catching a suspect for snatching an unattended wallet or bag off of a shopping cart without video is rare, police sources said, but with the surveillance video, the NYPD can post wanted flyers, which can bring in calls from other commands. If there is a clear enough photo, the Facial Recognition Unit can use the picture to identify the suspect and help the investigation.

Representatives for Trader Joe’s did not respond to a request for comment on the store’s security systems and protocol, or regarding any of the incidents that police reported in the stores this year.

4 thoughts on “Pick-pockets preying on customers at local Trader Joe’s markets

  1. Smaller family owned businesses, restaurants, liquor stores and the like typically have video surveillance as a way to reduce crime in their store and serve to protect their customers, staff & themselves. Perhaps the corporate heads do not wish to provide this public service which should be evident to anyone of common sense, especially to a business that is doing quite well in the Big Apple, while displacing many mom & pop stores. Maybe the city council could pass an ordinance stating that (chain) stores occupying more than xx,xxx sq, or more than xx employees, or with estimated xxx + people per day, must have functional surveillance equipment for review by themselves & law enforcement. It would be better to avoid passing laws to cover every situation, but if the avoidance of great responsibility is by those with great wealth than some action is required.

  2. Trader Joe’s was “tired of being inundated with requests” from police, so removed the cameras?? “It wasn’t cost effective to keep the cameras”?? I didn’t realize security cameras were installed to be profitable. Apparently the word is out that TJ is the place to grab a few wallets without fear of repercussion.
    Unwilling to work with our local police – who are only trying to protect this same TJ community, is simply repugnant and reason enough to go an extra block or two to shop anywhere else. Even better- your local farmers markets to support (and meet) the people who actually grow your food.

  3. NYPD needs to stop worrying about the petty thieves and petty pickpockets and go after the real pickpockets which are the crooked politicians who create policies, laws and taxes that pick our pockets daily. High taxes, unaffordable housing and unaffordable health care are way more important issues to address than using facial recognition to catch a few petty thieves and grifters. The hue and cry to crackdown on petty criminals and nuisances who are used as scapegoats for all of society’s ills is just smoke and mirrors to distract us from the big picture of who the real criminals and crooks in high places are. Also how did police catch petty thieves and pickpockets in the 1950’s, 1960’s, 1970’s and 1980’s way before we had a zillion surveillance cameras and facial recognition? I will tell you how, good old fashioned police work! If you can’t catch a few petty thieves without the aid of cameras and facial recognition how will you catch a violent dangerous criminal who avoids cameras or wears a mask.

  4. Pingback: Police suspect bodegas re-selling stolen goods | Town & Village

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