By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Police have been surveilling local bodegas where stolen goods are suspected to be sold.
Responding to a question about a spike in the number of thefts from neighborhood pharmacies, Deputy Inspector Steven Hellman said at the 13th Precinct Community Council’s January meeting that shoplifting in pharmacy chains like Duane Reade and CVS is problematic throughout Manhattan. So is the reselling of those items to other stores, and Hellman said undercover officers have been on it.
“It’s a slow process because they start to recognize our undercover guys but we’re still watching them,” he said of one local bodega suspected of selling stolen merchandise. “We think there are other bodegas where they’re fencing things so we’re trying to track those, too.”
Although Hellman has noted in the past that some companies are reluctant to cooperate with the NYPD in providing surveillance video, including Trader Joe’s and Starbucks, he said at the meeting that the corporate offices for Duane Reade, at least, have been more helpful.
“It has been a problem for the precinct but we’ve met with corporate (at Duane Reade) about it. They have a hands-off policy (for dealing with shoplifters), which is good because we don’t want anyone getting hurt,” Hellman said, noting that this, unfortunately, can result in an uptick of thefts.
Hellman said that despite frequent arrests of those who are stealing from the pharmacies, though, the thefts continue to be a problem because of the minor penalties and those committing the crimes will come back for more.
“A lot of them often have dependency issues, and a lot of times they’ll be arrested and get right back out and do it again not long after,” he said.
Residents at the meeting said they had noticed NYPD officers guarding some of the stores rather than private security guards but Hellman noted that this addition was part of a small pilot program that hasn’t expanded to the 13th Precinct yet. The Duane Reade on East 14th Street near Fourth Avenue in Union Square is one of the stores with a police officer but since the store is on the south side of the street, it is technically in the 9th Precinct. If the program is successful, it may expand to other precincts throughout the city.