‘Wild West’: Philly Merchants Say Police Decision to Pull Back amid COVID-19 Has Led to Surge in Shoplifting

Bodega manager Rafael Perez wears a homemade face protector, made from a water bottle, while working at the Chinese Hispanic Grocery during the coronavirus disease outbreak in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York, April 2, 2020. (Andrew Kelly / Reuters)

Philadelphia traders warn that the city’s lax law enforcement amidst the corona virus has led to rising shoplifting.

In March, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said her department would stop arrests for non-violent crimes – including drug crimes, theft, vandalism, prostitution and more – to avoid the overcrowded prisons during the pandemic. Only 20 retailers told local news broadcast ABC6 that criminals were encouraged by the lack of police presence.

“I’ve been through a lot of shoplifting. Every day I try to call and sometimes when I call, nobody answers,” said a shop owner. “People come into the store, they load their bags and they tell us the law that they won’t be locked up “, another added.

Members of the Delaware Valley Franchise Owners Association called the situation “lawless” and “the Wild West” and called for help.

“I fired three people last week, they don’t want to work anymore because of safety concerns,” said President Manzoor Chughta.

A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia prosecutor said the situation sounded “terrorist.”

“If the police arrest in such cases, our office would charge the appropriate fee,” she said.

State and local governments have explored the fight against crime during the pandemic.

New Jersey said last month that it would release up to 1,000 prisoners from prison, fearing detention could lead to prison outbreaks. In Baltimore, Mayor Jack Young warned residents of the city that police would “follow” those who “want to keep shooting and murdering people in this city,” and warned that hospitals should be free to deal with coronavirus patients.

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