Store Owners Hit By Mobs Of Shoplifters After PD Says They Won't Arrest Thieves
Philadelphia, PA – The Philadelphia police commissioner’s announcement that officers will no longer arrest offenders for “non-violent” crimes has emboldened thieving mobs who have been pillaging stores without fear of prosecution, according to business owners.
"People are coming in the store, they're loading their bag and they're actually telling us the law – that they're not gonna get locked up," store owner Sukhvir Thinb told WPVI.
Thinb is one of approximately 20 Philadelphia business owners who said they have been plagued by repeated shoplifting incidents, which are sometimes carried out by brazen mobs who storm into stores and walk out with whatever they want.
Video footage from a 7-Eleven store located at Market Street and 22nd showed a group of eight to 10 juveniles as they waltzed inside the business and began helping themselves to various items, WPVI reported.
They bolted out the door with the stolen goods a moment later.
According to the store owner, this is at least the second or third time an incident like this has happened at that location since the coronavirus pandemic began, WPVI reported.
Other businesses said that people have been walking in and loading their backpacks with stolen goods.
Under a policy change that went into effect on March 17, Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw ordered that offenders arrested for drug possession, theft, burglary, vandalism, vehicle theft, prostitution, economic crimes, and all bench warrants be immediately released once their identities had been confirmed by police.
The intent was to lower jail populations to help protect suspects from contracting COVID-19.
Social media soon erupted with posts from people concerned about the potential for violent lawlessness not unlike the movie, “The Purge,” KYW reported.
“To be clear, the Philadelphia Police Department is not turning a blind eye to crime,” Commissioner Outlaw tweeted in response to the outrage. “This is similar to the ‘summons process’ that is utilized in many other counties throughout the Commonwealth.”
“To reiterate, criminal offenders will be held accountable for the crimes they commit,” she added, noting that the protocol changes were nothing more than a “temporary response.”
“You can issue a warrant for an arrest and come back later. In many jurisdictions, you can issue a summons,” he told WHYY. “Creative people in the courts, police and our office could come together and allow us to not abandon cases.”
Without the threat of being arrested looming over their heads, criminals have been thriving.
“I think broadcasting no arrests for retail theft was the biggest mistake the city ever made," Thinb told WPVI.
Delaware Valley Franchise Owners Association (DVFOA) Treasurer Vincent Emmanuel said Philadelphia has become a “lawless city.”
“It’s the Wild West,” Emmanuel said. “That’s what’s happening here.”
Store owner Mohammed Karim said he has been dealing with shoplifting on a daily basis, but that his 911 calls to police sometimes go unanswered, WPVI reported.
“I have three people quit last week,” DVFOA President Manzoor Chughta said. “They don't want to work anymore because of safety issues.”
DVFOA Vice President Bilal Barqawi said Philadelphia store owners are in desperate need of help from the city.
“Enough is enough, and we don’t know what to do,” Barqawi told WPVI. “We seek the help of the mayor, the attorney general, the police department, the chief of police. Please – we need help.”
Commissioner Outlaw reversed the policy on Friday.
"At the time of the change [in March], the Department was clear in that the list of offenses was subject to review and revision as conditions continued to evolve," Commissioner Outlaw said in a press release. "Predictably, conditions have, in fact, evolved in dynamic fashion. Accordingly, we have reviewed our current protocols and have made several adjustments."
The city conceded that there has been “an increase in burglaries committed by recidivist offenders,” according to the release.
Under the commissioner’s reversal, which went into immediate effect, “the emergency COVID-19 arrest procedures will no longer be in effect” for retail theft, stolen automobiles, theft from person, theft from automobiles, and burglary, the department said.