At The Atlantic, Amanda Mull looked into the apparent shoplifting crisis, wherein unpunishable thieves run riot thanks to legally-neutered security guards and "defunded" police. Reportage is mostly confused and inaccurate, it turns out, written up in such slippery and evasive terms that it's impossible to figure out what's even being claimed, let alone what's true.
"I spent the last two weeks down a retail-theft rabbit hole, trying to figure out if the shoplifting surge is real and why news coverage of it is so bizarre (and, honestly, so bad)," Mull writes.
When I asked retailers how they squared falling property-crime rates with their own assertions that theft has skyrocketed, they weren't exactly forthcoming. A spokesperson for Walgreens, which announced over the summer that it was closing some San Francisco locations because of high theft rates—a claim that has prompted skepticism in local media—declined to discuss the topic with me in any specifics. A spokesperson for CVS Health, which has been vociferous about organized theft and the need for new laws, told me that shoplifting has increased 300 percent in its stores since the beginning of the pandemic, and that the increase isn't reflected in police data, because police were less responsive to reports of property crime when criminal courts were closed. The company would not say what that change represents in absolute numbers, elaborate on its theft-tracking methodology, or explain whether the rate has fluctuated significantly in the nearly two-year period since the pandemic began.
An excellent article, and Mull does not omit those numbers and sources which are of genuine alarm to retailers. She merely accurately parses different types of crime and points out that it's weird that retailers won't answer questions about their self-reported numbers.
But it can also be put in simpler terms. Why do media confuse "Rite Aid letting homeless shoplifters go" with "Nordstroms being sacked by organized crime gangs"? Becuase they are desperate for content and will run anything that cops and flacks give them which hits the right notes.