Workers at Upper East Side drug and grocery stores said Wednesday that brazen shoplifters target their stores every day – and they are powerless to stop it.
The employees spoke to the Post a day after actor and comedian Michael Rapaport filmed an alleged crook casually strolling out of a Rite Aid at 80th Street and Second Avenue with his loot.
“It happens everywhere around here,” said Herman Diaz, an assistant manager at the nearby Morton Williams supermarket on First Avenue and East 81st Street. “They come here, 2 or 3 [shoplifting incidents per day] for meat and beer and Red Bull.”
“[On] Sunday, six kids, 17-25 years old, each got a basket, [filled it] with meat, beer, everything, didn’t pay, they walked out, got into a car, a BMW. Young kids.”
Someone else tried to steal beer and Red Bull last Thursday, he said.
“I tell him, you can’t take it,” Diaz said. “He spit in my face and pushed me. He dropped it on the floor when he saw me. He was drunk, I think.”
Diaz said he started to see such incidents happening last year.
“Every store is losing money because of this,” the assistant manager said. “I’ve never seen that before. It’s brazen.”
He said police need to be given “more power” in order to stop the thefts.
An employee at CVS on First Avenue and 82nd Street said “there are way more [shoplifters] now.”
She blamed the uptick on pandemic-fueled unemployment, and said thieves are emboldened because workers aren’t allowed to stop them.
“We can’t even touch them,” said the employee, before she was ushered away by her co-workers. “We don’t have security here. We should have security. It happens every day.”
Rowena Moore, who works in customer service at D’Agostino at 83rd and Lexington Ave, said the shoplifting often happens at night and has been more frequent since the start of the pandemic.
“They come after hours, one here, one over there, it’s ridiculous,” Moore said. “They come with a bag, and they take the meats, the detergent, then they go on the corner and start reselling it….Yesterday [a man] was trying to steal all the deodorants, the shampoos. We tell him he can’t take it. He says he wants to sample it. We say, ‘You have to leave. You cannot sample anything.’”
“At the [nearby] Duane Reade, they take a bag and walk out,” she added. “You can’t stop them….They get fired if they get involved with them.”
Last Thursday, a Post reporter witnessed a man with face tattoos screaming profanities at a CVS employee at East 68th Street and Third Avenue.
When the employee told him to cut it out, the man claimed the worker was assaulting him and threatened to call the cops because employees aren’t allowed to get involved.
The worker told the Post the man, who appears to be homeless, shoplifts from the store every day.
By Wednesday afternoon, Rapaport’s Instagram video of the purported Rite Aid thief had more than 218,000 views.
“Duke just went CHRISTMAS SHOPPING at @riteaid,” Rapaport wrote in the caption, and tagged Mayor Eric Adams. “I’m TRIPPING this happened in broad day like it was nothing.”
Police said that no report had been filed on the theft. Employees at the store declined to comment Wednesday.
The incidents come amid a recent surge in shoplifters making bold thefts at retail and grocery stores that critics blame on soft approaches to prosecutions that have emboldened people to commit low-level crimes.
Reported store losses are on the rise, with $719,458 in losses per $1 billion in sales in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation.
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