Shoplifting and Other Types of Petit Larceny in New York City

by Jeffrey A. Butts and Richard A. Espinobarros
April 14, 2023

Increasing incidents of shoplifting and other forms of “petit larceny” are observable in the most recent crime data released by police in New York City. Across all types of petit larceny or theft of items worth less than $1000, crime incidents grew 50 percent after 2006 and 29 percent since 2019.

Between 2019 and 2022, petit larceny grew 53 percent at major commercial retailers (department stores, chain stores, etc.), from fewer than 35,000 to nearly 55,000 incidents annually. Thefts in other settings grew after 2019 as well. Petit larceny on neighborhood streets and sidewalks climbed 27 percent. Larcenies from private homes and residences jumped 16 percent.

Two different trends were visible in recent years. Some types of petit larceny have been generally in decline since 2006. Thefts from commercial buildings, parking lots, gas stations, and smaller businesses had been declining before exhibiting a surge after 2019. The same pattern was seen in petit larceny from neighborhood streets and other public areas (e.g., schools, parks, and playgrounds).

In major commercial locations as well as private homes, however, petit larceny incidents generally increased between 2006 and 2019. Those trends diverged in 2020. Thefts from private homes and residences stabilized after 2020, perhaps due to school and work disruptions. Thefts from major retailers, on the other hand, grew sharply and significantly. Drug stores, in particular, experienced twice as many thefts in 2022 compared with 2019, rising from 6,031 to 12,343 incidents. Thefts from chain stores increased 91 percent over the same period, surging from 11,673 to 22,250.