Brazen thieves have been hitting the same Upper East Side Rite Aid for months, forcing it to close – and now, numerous small businesses in the upscale Manhattan neighborhood, where residents say they are on high alert because of rising crime, are worried they will soon suffer the same fate after a string of thefts.
Shelves are already bare in the Rite Aid store, located at the corner of 80th Street and 2nd Avenue because it will shut its doors for good on February 15, the manager told DailyMail.com, a day after a thief was caught on video boldly sauntering out with shopping bags full of stolen goods.
The brazen incident in one of New York City‘s wealthiest neighborhoods was only captured on camera because actor and comedian Michael Rapaport had stopped by to pick up his prescription mood stabilizers. He said it was ‘pathetic’ that brazen crime continues to spiral in the Big Apple because of soft-on-crime policies.
‘These criminals know there are no ramifications. We have to put more of these mfers in jail,’ he fumed to DailyMail.com.
The Rite Aid’s closure is just one of many in the city. On February 8, a Hell’s Kitchen store which has been rife with robberies in recent months will close, and on the Upper West Side, another store which experienced daily thefts shut down in November. Just this week, there was news that a Rite Aid located at Clinton Joralemon Streets in the Brooklyn Heights is also set to close next month.
The chain announced last year that it was shutting down about 63 stores across the US in the next few years, citing cost-cutting measures to save $25 million a year – but workers say that the thefts are part of the reason for the closures as inventory dwindles.
Robbery in New York City has spiked by about 33 percent in the week ending on January 23, according to the NYPD’s most recent data, with 944 incidents compared to 709 incidents reported during the same timeframe last year. Overall crime has gone up by nearly 39 percent, with 7,230 incidents this year as compared to last year’s 5,211.
Crime in the city has become so rampant that President Joe Biden will visit New York City next week to discuss combatting gun crime with Mayor Eric Adams after two police officers were executed by a gunman with a long rap sheet.
While Adams has said that he will stamp down on crime, and roll out the undercover anti-gun crime unit disbanded under Bill De Blasio, he still has to contend with lax policies put in place by soft-on-crime Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg who has told prosecutors to seek non-custodial sentences for many crimes, and downgraded most robberies to a misdemeanor.
Meanwhile, small business owners and workers in the Upper East Side – once one of America’s wealthiest zip codes – say no one is stopping the thefts and they are also being targeted on a daily basis.
Sayed Imam, the store manager of Wine Emporium, for 15 years said there is little to no support from the police – and even if they call 911, by the time the cops show up, the thieves are gone.
‘For us, every inventory counts,’ he said. ‘Since the beginning of the pandemic, these thefts just keep happening. And we don’t have the support from police.’
Imam added that the thieves have become so brazen because they know no one will stop them.
The rampant thefts follows a trend in started in crime-ridden San Francisco where thieves last year were often seen simply waltzing past security guards to sell stolen items right outside the doors of Walgreens pharmacies.
The national chain has closed 17 of its 70 San Francisco locations in the past two years because of the shelf raiders, who have swiped everything not behind lock and key. Thefts in the chain’s 53 remaining stores are five times the average for their stores elsewhere in the country, according to company officials.
Shelves are already bare in the Rite Aid store, located at the corner of 80th Street and 2nd Avenue because it will shut its doors for good on February 15, the manager told DailyMail.com, a day after a thief was caught on video boldly sauntering out with shopping bags full of stolen goods
Robbery in New York City has spiked by about 33 percent in the week ending on January 23, according to the NYPD’s most recent data, with 944 incidents compared to 709 incidents reported during the same timeframe last year. Overall crime has gone up by nearly 39 percent, with 7,230 incidents this year as compared to last year’s 5,211
Empty shelves are seen at Rite Aid on the Upper East Side just three weeks before they’re set to close. The store’s closure is just one of many in the city. On February 8, a Hell’s Kitchen store which has been rife with robberies in recent months will close, and on the Upper West Side, another store which experienced daily thefts shut down in November
Sayed Imam, the store manager of Wine Emporium (pictured) say no one is stopping the thefts and they are also being targeted on a daily basis. He added that there is little to no support from the police – and even if they call 911, by the time the cops show up, the thieves are gone
An Upper East Side resident, who only wanted to be identified by her first name, Simin, has lived in the area since 1996. She said the once-quiet, safe, family neighborhood has become ‘too dangerous’ and residents are constantly on high alert. Seeing thieves load up with goods is a common occurrence, and people refuse to intervene out of fear they’ll be hurt or even killed.
Simin told DailyMail.com that a few weeks ago a Starbucks at 87th and Third Ave, just a few blocks away from the now infamous Rite Aid, was targeted.
‘A man came in with a large bag and just start filling it with mugs and other stuff from those shelves. He just scooped them into the bag, not even trying to hide it.’
She said a store employee finally stopped him and the man ran out the door – with his loaded up bag.
‘I wasn’t going to do anything. You just never know. These are crazy times. What if he had a knife? What if he had a gun and just started shootings up the whole place? No, I wasn’t going to take that risk.
She told DailyMail.com that that the neighborhood is still her home that she loves, but is worried about that the uptick in thefts will lead to more violence in the usually quiet neighborhood.
While she continues to be stunned by the thefts, a young employee at the Starbucks just across the street from Rite aid wasn’t even fazed by Tuesday’s incident.
‘Oh, it happens every day,’ she said. ‘That’s why they’re closing, you know. Someone is always stealing stuff. Walking out, right past security. And no one blinks an eye.’
At the Rite Aid at the center of Rapaport’s video, shoppers were telling workers that they were upset they’d be losing their jobs and wished them luck.
But, one worker told DailyMail.com that she wasn’t sure what that path would be.
‘I don’t know what I’m going to do,’ an employee told DailyMail.com, explaining that they had not yet been told if they would be transferred to another location or if they would lose their job.
‘That’s the hard part – not knowing,’ she added ‘We need to know something soon, we have bills to pay.’
At a nearby Morton Williams, manager Herman Diaz told the New York Post that people were shoplifting two or three times a day.
‘On Sunday, six kids, 17-25 years old, each got a basket, with meat, beer, everything, didn’t pay, they walked out, got into a car, a BMW. Young kids.’
Someone else tried to steal beer and Red Bull last Thursday, he said.
‘I tell him, you can’t take it,’ Diaz said. ‘He spit in my face and pushed me. He dropped it on the floor when he saw me. He was drunk, I think.’
Workers at a nearby CVS said they are completely powerless to stop thieves.
‘We can’t even touch them. We don’t have security here. We should have security. It happens every day,’ she told The Post.
Actor and comedian Michael Rapaport, who posted footage on Instagram of a bold thief going for a shoplifting spree in NYC on Tuesday, said he was ‘disgusted’ by the brazen crime
Rapaport said the man in his footage filled two bags with stolen goods before nonchalantly strolling past security and leaving
Employees at a Starbucks just across the street from Rite Aid on the Upper East Side say they aren’t shocked by the thefts which are a common daily occurrence
A regular customer at the Upper East Side Rite Aid who has lived in the area for more than 20 years was stunned by the news when she walked into the store – using a walker.
‘Where will I get my medications now? she asked. This is where I’ve always come.
She said it was frightening to hear about the recent thefts, but it had not deterred her from visiting the store and the employees she enjoyed seeing.
The Rite Aid in the video, on 80th Street and 2nd Avenue, is hit with thefts of the same nature on an almost daily basis, a security guard told Rapaport.
‘You see all these videos on Instagram of people shoplifting like they’re going for a walk in the park. It’s pathetic that this is happening in the greatest city in the world,’ Rapaport said.
Another location in New York City is in Hell’s Kitchen at Eighth Avenue and West 50th Street, which is scheduled to close on February 8. Employees told the New York Daily News that the location was closing because of the rash of thefts.
Card shelves at Rite Aid ion the Upper East Side are nearly empty after being hit with thefts on an almost daily basis
Security cameras monitor the aisles at the Rite Aid on the Upper East Side where thefts are a daily occurrence
A lone customer shops at the Rite Aid on the Upper East Side just weeks before it’s set to close due to a rash of thefts
Shelves and walls in the Rite Aid are completely bare in some parts of the store before it shuts for good in February
Rapaport’s video, which has since garnered more than 165,000 views, starts with Rapaport filming the thief sauntering out of the Rite Aid, while the exasperated actor fumbles with his words before shouting, ‘I can’t believe I’m seeing this s**t!’
‘He’s walking down the street like s**t is Gucci, he looked me in the face like ”what’s good.” I was watching him the whole time! My man just went Christmas shopping in January.’
The Heat star captions the video: ‘Duke just went CHRISTMAS SHOPPING at @riteaid I’m TRIPPING this happened in broad day like it was nothing. New @iamrapaport discusses it all. I was just informed this Rite Aid is closing 2/15 because of this, leaving the workers JOBLESS. @ericadamsfornyc YO,’ tagging the drug store chain and New York City Mayor Eric Adams.
Rapaport told DailyMail.com he was ‘disgusted’ and ‘surprised’ when he saw the thief stocking up on items from three different sections of the pharmacy before deciding he was satisfied
Robbery in New York City has spiked by about 33% in the week ending on January 23, the NYPD’s most recent data, with 944 incidents as compared to the 709 incidents reported in same duration last year
He told DailyMail.com that he initially thought the thief was an employee because ‘he was just so deliberate and casual.’
Rapaport put the blame on former Mayor Bill de Blasio, who embraced soft-on-crime policies such as bail reform and police budget cuts.
However, Rapaport said that new Mayor Adams could right the ship: ‘I think Eric Adams knows what’s going on, he knows how to deal with crime. I’m just hoping he lives up to our expectations.’
The actor said he relies on that Rite Aid, where he buys his mood stabilizers, and that he and many others in the community are now losing their neighborhood pharmacy – and its workers are losing their jobs – because of the rampant shoplifting.
‘These people are gonna be out of a job because of guys like this scumbum,’ he said, using the invented word as a combination of ‘scumbag’ and ‘bum.’
Speaking about the Rite Aid incident on Tuesday, Rapaport said it was the first time he saw such ‘blatant’ theft in person, but that the security guard in his video is all too familiar.
He told Rapaport that, just yesterday, two men walked in and took a six-pack of beer before acknowledging the security guard and leaving without paying anyway.
The security guard is seen in Rapaport’s video nonchalantly watching the thief walk out with his bags of looted goods. It is unclear what Rite Aid’s security policy is, but chains like Walmart have insurance over stolen products and discourage their security guards from trying to engage with the thieves and risking injuring themselves or others.
A similar theft at a Rite Aid in New York City went viral on TikTok in October after a woman named India, who was a security guard at the store, posted footage of thefts pilfering Halloween candy before fleeing.
People asked in the comments why she isn’t stopping the thieves if she is supposed to be a security guard, to which she replied: ‘Because it’s illegal to touch, grab or use any physical force to stop them.’
Instead, she said, her job is to ‘observe and report.’
When asked what he thinks needs to be done to curb the spike in shoplifting incidents, Rapaport said that there needs to be ‘more ramifications’ and penalties for shoplifting.
‘Criminals know they could get away with it. This whole thing is just a mess,’ he said.