Will Rising Crime Dampen Holiday Shopping Spirits?

Dr. Munr Kazmir
4 min readNov 24, 2023

With carjacking, robbery, and mass shoplifting incidents on the rise, some shoppers and retailers are nervous this year.

Photo by Chantal DeGaust on Unsplash.

How do you fight shoplifting?” wondered the Washington Post editorial board on November 18, 2023. “Not by locking down everything in CVS.

“Shoppers visiting the CVS Pharmacy at 14th and Irving streets NW in Washington recently must think they traveled back in time to the Soviet Union,” began the editorial board. “The store’s shelves are bare. The refrigerator cases are devoid of food or beverages. When we visited, only sunscreen and greeting cards were on display. But the bizarre scene is not a result of a failed planned economy; rampant theft is the cause.”

As to the cause of rampant theft, the WP editorial board was prepared to be surprisingly explicit.

“A better legal framework won’t help much if it’s not aggressively enforced, though,” noted the WP. “We heard from a Columbia Heights shopper who witnessed a mass shoplifting and emailed CVS corporate headquarters about it. A regional manager responded that the problem was that police do not pursue cases when CVS reports them. (A CVS spokesperson declined to comment.)”

“Even if police do make an arrest, it often does not lead to prosecution,” wrote the WP editorial board. “The District’s U.S. attorney, Matthew M. Graves, declined to prosecute 56 percent of cases in the past fiscal year, an unusually high number relative to other cities.”

It is perhaps unsurprising to find crime rates rising in a situation where criminals are so seldom pursued and charges only sought 44% of the time.

Shoplifting Trends: What You Need to Know,” wrote Ernesto Lopez, Robert Boxerman, and Kelsey Cindiff in a recent report for the Council on Criminal Justice.

“Since shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council on Criminal Justice has tracked changing rates of violent and property crime in large cities across the United States,” began the trio. “The pandemic, as well as the social justice protests during the summer of 2020 and other factors, have altered the motives, means, and opportunities to commit crimes.”