Walgreens, retail org fire back at AOC for dismissing growing problem of organized retail theft

News & Politics

Pharmacy retail giant Walgreens punched back at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) last week after the far-left progressive lawmaker dismissed rampant theft happening in retail stores nationwide.

What did AOC say?

During an interview with the Washington Times, Ocasio-Cortez downplayed the growing problem of smash-and-grab thefts and organized retail crime.

“[A] lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.”

However, a recent New York Times story on the growing problem of retail theft directly contradicts what Ocasio-Cortez said.

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Theft is an ever-present issue for retailers. As much as $68.9 billion of products were stolen from retailers in 2019, according to one industry group. But it has become more visible, brazen and violent in recent months, forcing an industry already buffeted by pandemic lockdowns and fights over mask requirements to deal with a new problem.

“This level of violence has taken it to a whole new level,” said Rachel Michelin, president of the California Retailers Association. “No one has seen this before.”

The New York Times attributed the surge in theft to online marketplaces, which make it easy to sell stolen goods, the rampant violence of summer 2020 that followed the murder of George Floyd, and poor enforcement of existing laws.

What was the reaction?

Politicians, retail organizations, and even Walgreens responded to Ocasio-Cortez’s claims.

Contrary to what Ocasio-Cortez, Walgreens told the Washington Times that “organized retail crime is one of the top challenges facing” the retail giant. In fact, the problem “has evolved beyond shoplifting and petty theft to the sale of stolen and counterfeit goods online,” evidence of organized retail theft, Walgreens said.

Walgreens additionally said that theft at its stores in San Francisco has become such a problem that security costs at Walgreens stores in San Francisco are now 46 times greater than the average Walgreens store.

Meanwhile, Jason Brewer, senior executive vice president of communications of the Retail Industry Leaders Association, said Ocasio-Cortez “has no idea what she is talking about.”

“Both the data and stack of video evidence makes fairly clear that this is a growing problem in need of solutions,” Brewer told the Washington Times. “If she is not concerned with organized theft and increasingly violent attacks on retail employees, she should just say that.”

In fact, the National Retail Federation continually finds that organized retail crime is a growing problem that won’t go away.

Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) similarly called Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks “tone-deaf and offensive” to the family of an Oakland security guard who was murdered while protecting a TV news crew during a robbery.

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