“A lot of these allegations of organized retail theft are not actually panning out,” the New York Democrat told the Washington Times. “I believe it’s a Walgreens in California [that] cited it, but the data didn’t back it up.”
Ocasio-Cortez seems to be referring to data from the San Francisco Examiner that found the monthly number of shoplifting reports made to the San Francisco Police Department have remained below pre-pandemic averages. But Read Hayes, a criminologist at the University of Florida, points out the number of police reports regarding retail theft is not necessarily an accurate representation of how many robberies occur.
There are several reasons for this. For example, businesses often don’t want to get law enforcement involved. Further complicating matters is that businesses may treat the situation differently when there is no guarantee of prosecution. Also, this metric can be highly dependent on unrelated factors, such as the method used to report shoplifting incidents. And the number of reports doesn’t have to increase for the thefts to become increasingly well-organized and brazen, with the stolen items growing in value.