WGVA 106.3FM 1240AMMix 98.5101.7 The WallWFLR Finger Lakes Country Classic Hits 99.3The Lake 100.1/104.5 WAUB 96.3FM 1590AM

Schumer Calls on DOJ to Investigate Ontario County Retail Crime Spree


Standing in front of Victor Crossing Shopping Plaza, amid a spike in large-scale organized retail thefts, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer on Tuesday called on the Department of Justice to increase enforcement and use all available measures including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, which helped curtail the mafia’s organized crime spree, to investigate and prosecute organized retail theft rings in New York.

The senator explained the RICO Act is a strong federal tool for the DOJ to bust criminal, retail theft organizations – which go far beyond run-of-the-mill shoplifters – in Rochester, Ontario County, and across the state to stop large-scale criminal operations that are hurting local businesses, driving up prices, inconveniencing consumers, and risking community safety.

“Organized retail crime rings are spiking in New York and other communities across the country. It goes way beyond shoplifting – these are large-scale, organized theft operations stealing tens of thousands from local businesses here in Rochester, Ontario County and across the state and it has to stop. That’s why I’m launching my push to get the DOJ to step up their efforts against these crimes, and use the RICO Act, which helped curtail the mafia, to stop these organizations in their tracks,” said Senator Schumer. “We need all hands on deck to cut the problem off at the source and hold the people at the top of these criminal operations accountable. The feds have the power to bust these organizations and I am committed to fighting at the federal level to ensure our local police have the support they need to continue their work and keep our communities safe.”

Ontario County Sheriff David Cirencione said, “Combatting the rise of organized retail theft throughout our region has become a full-time job for some of our investigators. The Ontario County Sheriff’s Office responded to 30 calls and made 11 felony arrests stemming from repeated thefts of the Victor Ulta store alone where a number of individuals worked in concert over several months to steal over $100,000 in merchandise. This is a national problem with theft rings active across jurisdictional lines, so we appreciate Senator Schumer’s support for greater federal law enforcement and resources to help local law enforcement and to combat these organized rings at their source.”

Schumer said Upstate has been particularly impacted by these rings, with Ontario, Monroe, and other New York counties having seen rises in thefts and assaults on retail workers in recent years. In Ontario County, large and small retailers have been the victims of shoplifting incidents. For example, in Victor, the Ulta store which has been a national target of organized theft rings was hit particularly hard repeatedly over several months. Schumer said over $100,000 of products were stolen from the store between 2023 and February 2024. This same Ulta Store was hit in July 2023 when $8,000 of merchandise was stolen. Several other individuals from Rochester were arrested in 2023 for stealing $170,000 of goods from Ulta stores in Erie County and Batavia. Similarly, thousands of dollars of merchandise were stolen over several instances from a sporting goods retailer’s stores at the Eastview Mall in Victor and the Greece mall.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to the Department of Justice appears below:

Dear Attorney General Garland:

I am writing to urge the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate organized retail theft rings that continue to harm businesses and communities across New York. While theft has decreased as a whole nationwide, New York City has seen a 64 percent increase in thefts since 2019, and Syracuse has seen a 55 percent spike since 2021. Monroe, Orange, and other New York counties have also seen rises in thefts and assaults on retail workers in recent years. Many of these thefts are not driven by necessity but by organized crime rings looking to make a profit.

Everyday New Yorkers are being harmed by these crime rings. Large chain stores and small businesses alike are being forced to close due to thefts. Target announced last year the closure of their store in East Harlem, citing concerns over worker safety and theft as their reason for closing. Other large retailers and small businesses have followed suit, as the cost of securing merchandise—whether by locking certain items in cases, investing in hired security and security cameras, or securing doors and windows with expensive security gates—has harmed their ability to operate.

Organized crime rings are also incentivizing thieves to use more brazen and confrontational techniques against retail workers who try to intervene to stop them, putting retail workers in danger. Almost half of small businesses owners surveyed by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce say they felt more unsafe in 2023 than during the year before. Retail workers should not be put at risk so that others can make a profit off stolen goods.

These effects also trickle down to consumers, who are, in many cases, forced to pay higher prices and face fewer choices as their local communities cope with or succumb to retail theft. Small businesses are feeling the effects of retail theft at a greater level than large retailers—many small businesses surveyed this past year were forced to raise their prices solely due to shoplifting.7 Organized retail crime is a problem that will only continue to harm New York businesses and consumers unless the government protects consumers.

Congress has provided DOJ with powerful tools to tackle this problem. One option is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), which could help federal agents take on major organized crime rings harm our communities. Rather than focus on individual crimes, RICO enables DOJ to investigate and prosecute these crime rings and their sophisticated, diversified interstate networks. Using RICO to combat organized retail theft rings would allow federal agents to work with local New York prosecutors, and it is critical to use all available tools to dismantle these rings and take down their entire organizational structure. I urge DOJ to take all appropriate actions to stop these criminal enterprises and to provide justice to affected businesses, workers, and consumers.

Have all the Finger Lakes news from Finger Lakes News Radio delivered to your email every morning for FREE!  Sign up by clicking here.

Get the top stories on your radio 24/7 on Finger Lakes News Radio 96.3 and 1590, WAUB and 106.3 and 1240, WGVA, and on Finger Lakes Country, 96.1/96.9/101.9/1570 WFLR.