Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
Commercial burglaries in New York City have more than doubled this April compared last as thieves prey on both the stores forced to close amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and the "essential businesses" allowed to remain open.
The New York Police Department recorded 564 commercial burglaries in the month of April, which is a 169 percent increase from 2019 when 210 commercial burglaries occurred during the same period, NYPD data shows,
“Burglaries are driven by recidivists, and they are exploiting the pandemic for their personal gain,” said Chief Michael LiPetri, who heads the department’s Office of Crime Control Strategies.
Thieves, LiPetri said, are targeting the non-essential businesses and mom-and-pop-stores – “the restaurants, the nail salons, offices” – they know to be closed as a result of directives put in place by the government. But they’re also burglarizing locations that might have “more cash on hand,” such as grocery stores and bodegas, he said.
“We're seeing an increase in nighttime burglaries, forced entry, which would be either through the front door, the front window, the rear door. We've also seen an increase in rooftop entries,” LiPetri continued. “You name it, we've seen it.”
Some businesses throughout the city – and the nation – have opted to board up their storefronts to better protect against break-ins.
LiPetri said the department supports any business owner’s decision to do so, but emphasized that the NYPD is still at work, and some members have even been temporarily reassigned to accommodate changes in response needs.
“With a force that has seen a high point of 7,000 officers sick and, unfortunately, many deaths, we are still out there,” LaPetri said. “We are still patrolling, we are still investigating, and we are absolutely making these arrests.”
On Thursday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea slammed recent statewide bail reforms while acknowledging the commercial burglaries in the city.
“We have commercial establishments getting burglarized, and the perpetrators are getting right back out,” he said during a Twitter Question-and-Answer segment.
The bail reform law went into effect on Jan. 1 and did away with cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent offenses, but did not eliminate the practice entirely in the state.
LiPetri reiterated Shea’s complaints on Friday, and noted the department has data to show that burglars are being arrested and released as part of the reform, and are then re-offending.
“To be arrested for burglary, to be arrested for entering someone's dwelling, to be entering someone's commercial establishment and not be eligible for bail unless there's an aggravating factor, really was concerning,” he said.
The increase in burglaries “exasperates the situation,” he said. "People's livelihoods were so affected in regards to the burglaries and to be revictimized, and then possibly be revictimized again because that perpetrator gets right out after arraignment, is very, very concerning.”
LiPetri urged businesses that have remained open to make sure they are not keeping large amounts of cash on hand. Those that are closed should keep in touch with their neighborhood precinct to ensure it has their contact information.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Editor's note: This report was updated on May 4, 2020, to include the NYPD's crime statistics through the entire month of April.