fb-pixel Skip to main content

So why is there a rise in shoplifting?

An 18-year-old Braintree man allegedly tried to steal a shopping cart full of LEGOs and other toys from a Target store in Plainville in July.Plainville Police Department

No mystery here, says retired Boston cop

In a front-page article on Thanksgiving Day (“Shoplifting on the rise, retailers lock it all down,” Page A1, Nov. 24), Dana Gerber asks the question “So how did we get here?” COVID-19 is cited as a possible cause (actually, I was expecting “climate change” as the excuse, but the catch-all bugaboo of COVID-19 is always a good fallback).

As a 38-year retired Boston police officer, I can tell you that there is no mystery here. When there are no consequences for thievery, a certain amount of people will steal. When judges and prosecutors do not hold people accountable and police are dissuaded from making arrests due to the futility of processing those crimes, some people will steal. It’s really that simple.


When stores cannot make a profit and are beset by organized gangs of roaming thieves causing vandalism, chaos, and violence, law-abiding customers will shop elsewhere and those stores will close. Very simple. Cause and effect. It’s not COVID-19. “Thou shalt not steal” did not come with a qualifier of “…except if it’s under $1,250.″ No mystery here. Liberal politicians and a lack of enforcement created this problem. And as more “urban” (your use of the word, not mine) stores close and downtown areas are vacated, the law-abiding residents will live with the results.

James W. Carnell


Another reason may be ...

The article reporting on increased shoplifting and the resulting decision by drugstores to lock up more products overlooks one factor possibly feeding the uptick in theft: addiction. A well-documented trend among young people is to use products containing dextromethorphan to get high. This is the active ingredient in cough suppressants. When taken in large quantities, DXM creates euphoric, stimulant, and dissociative effects. Cough syrup is known as “poor man’s PCP” and one of the reasons it is “affordable” is because it is frequently shoplifted. A bill currently pending before the Legislature would prevent the sale of DXM products to minors. While inconvenient for short-staffed retailers, this could potentially benefit the thousands of young people who struggle to stop their misuse when the products are so readily available to them.


K. Riely Edmunds