‘Third World’ NYC drug store shelves empty amid shoplifting surge

Bare necessities are now rare luxuries on drug-store shelves across New York City

Thanks to a citywide shoplifting tsunami, bare necessities are now rare luxuries on drug-store shelves across New York City.

"It looks like the Third World," bemoaned one Manhattan resident, after eyeing the aisles of a CVS on Sixth Avenue in Soho desperately low of toothpaste, face wash and hand sanitizer, among a long list of other items.

"They’ve all been stolen," a CVS employee told The Post.

State bail reform laws make shoplifting a promising career option for some New York City crooks. One man, Isaac Rodriguez, 22, of Queens, was arrested for shoplifting 46 times this year alone, The Post exclusively reported last week.

The blame goes straight to the halls of power in Albany, said New York City top cop Dermot Shea.

"Insanity," the police commissioner tweeted last week in response to The Post report. "No other way to describe the resulting crime that has flowed from disastrous bail reform law." 

Serial shoplifters, even if arrested, typically walk free the same day. Cases against them are often not prosecuted. Drug stores, filled with aisles of small necessities, offer an easy-to-harvest goldmine for thieves.

Rodriguez allegedly stole from Walgreens stores 37 times, lifting everything from protein drinks to soap, baby formula and body lotions, often simply filling up a bag with items then walking out the front door without paying.

There are 77 other thieves right now walking the streets of New York with rap sheets of 20 or more shoplifting charges, NYPD sources say.

As of Sept. 12, the city has seen 26,385 complaints of retail theft — the most ever recorded (going back to 1995). It’s a 32 percent spike from last year (20,024) and 38 percent surge from 2014 (19,166).


Post reporters visited a dozen CVS, Duane Reade/Walgreens and Rite Aid stores around the city and found the same shocking situation in all of them.

Large swaths of barren shelves, in some cases frighteningly empty of almost every imaginable need: cereal, batteries, hand wash, diapers, paper goods and baby formula.

Good luck finding tampons. Each Post visit revealed almost none on the shelves. Displays of relative luxuries such as lipstick and shoe polish also looked neglected.

Only 12 of 57 paper goods listed on price displays at a CVS on 50th Avenue in Long Island City were in stock. About 8 in 10 clothing detergents were missing from the shelves of a Rite Aid on Broadway in Astoria; as were all 27 varieties of Ensure nutrition drinks and all 15 types of Irish Spring soap and body wash.


Two cops stood sentinel inside the doors of the Duane Reade at the corner of Avenue B and East Second Street on the Lower East Side this week.

"There’s a lot of theft here," one of the officers said, adding that they’ve made guard duty at the store part of their neighborhood patrol efforts.

The Wall Street Journal reported last month that retailers are the target of a $45 billion organized crime theft spree, with lifted goods often being resold on Amazon.