Eateries and supermarkets have beefed up security presence in response to mounting crime, with some operators spending money on private security, implementing new safety protocols, reducing hours of operation, and or even closing stores altogether, WSJ reports.
Last week, 16 Starbucks locations were permanently shuttered in major cities over incidents related to drug use and ‘other disruptions’ in its cafes. Just weeks before, the coffee chain walked back its “all inclusive” bathroom policy.
“We are facing things that the stores weren’t built for,” Starbucks CEO Howard Schutz said. “We are listening to our people and closing stores,” he said, adding the government must be more proactive in crime fighting and treating mental illness as crime spirals out of control in liberal metro areas.
Casual dining chain Noodles & Co. encountered similar situations of rampant drug use in bathrooms. Meanwhile, supermarket Kroger Co. and drugstore Wallgreens have been pressured by increasing organized thefts.
A new study showed that 41% of Americans are more fearful to grab a bite to eat or shop in public areas because of rising violent crime. A national online survey by food-service research firm Lisa W. Miller & Associates LLC said that figure is up from 39% in March. The firm surveyed 1,005 adults earlier this month.
New Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics shows aggravated assaults that took place in supermarkets increased by a whopping 73% between 2018 to 2020 and by 60% in restaurants during that period.
In Southern California earlier this month, a handful of 7-Eleven stores were closed after a string of robberies at the convenience store left two people dead and three others injured.
Mod Super Fast Pizza Holdings LLC’s store managers have reported increasing violent crime, such as theft and robberies, over the past six months at some of its 520-stores across the US.
“There seems to be a layer of stress going into the restaurants, more than it used to,” Becky Mulligan, senior vice president of operations, said.
This month’s survey by grocery trade group FMI said 72% of its 18 food retailers representing over 12,000 stores said they were initiating plans to deal with violence prevention, while 88% of respondents said they saw a jump in robberies.
Walking into a Wegmans supermarket, with most stores based in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, customers are greeted with local police or private security (sometimes off-duty cops) patrolling the aisles for those attempting to steal food.
Thefts appear to be a significant issue plaguing US retailers. Relaxed shoplifting rules in California have led to a number of Walgreens stores closing across San Francisco.
And let’s not forget the countless reports of ‘smash and grabs’ across all sorts of retailers from California to New York. One of the most notable flash mob raids was at a Nordstrom department store in an upscale community on the outskirts of the San Francisco Bay Area, called Walnut Creek, where 50-80 people ransacked the store late last year.
Best Buy recently blamed sliding margins on an increased number of thefts nationwide.
“We are seeing more and more particularly organized retail crime,” Chief Executive Officer Corie Barry said on a conference call with analysts. “You can see that pressure in our financials, and more importantly, frankly, you can see that pressure with our associates. It’s traumatizing.”
Increased shoplifting recently forced Target to reduce operating hours at several California locations.
Theft and violence across retailer stores come as the worst inflation has unequally crushed the working poor the hardest and wiped out their savings. In periods of economic turmoil, crime tends to increase.