NYPD could access shops’ surveillance cameras — in real time — under new plan to combat theft

It sounds a little like Big Brother, but cops say it’ll be a big help.

The city announced a new program Thursday to combat soaring retail crime – and it relies on store owners letting the NYPD tap into their security cameras to gather “real-time intelligence.”

The pilot program will be purely voluntary but those who opt-in to the city’s integration platform will be able to directly share information through their existing survelliance system, according to Mayor Eric Adams’ office.

Mayor Adams announced Thursday a new city program that would let the NYPD tap into retail surveillance cameras — as long as the business agrees to it. Matthew McDermott

“The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety,” Adams said at a press conference announcing the program, which will cost the city $1.5 million but be free to businesses.

“Anything that erodes that feeling of safety is going to get in the way … and nothing erodes it more than going into your local store, and you have to call someone to unlock the toothpaste, unlock the hair shampoo when I had hair, unlock all of the items that we have.”

The administration says the direct access to the closed-circuit systems will help cops catch thieves more quickly and offer a new layer of protection for local businesses.

“New York is saying we’re not sitting back and throwing up our hands —that’s a signal of urban surrender,” Hizzoner continued. “We refuse to surrender to any form of criminality. We’re not going to allow shoplifters and organized crime rings to prey on businesses.”

The move comes as retail theft continues to spike in New York City — larceny rose by 51% between 2017 and 2023, according to Chain Store Age, a retail-focused news website.

Meanwhile, robberies, grand larceny and petit larceny in the Big Apple jumped by 86% during the same period, the outlet said.

Business owners would have to agree to let the NYPD peak through their cameras — but some remained wary that cops will check up on everything they do. meepoohyaphoto –
A pair of NYPD officers make their rounds and stop by the Adol store on 42nd Street, which has been robbed several times by criminals. Aristide Economopoulos

Adams said the NYPD made 25,480 retail theft arrests last year — and about 542 repeat offenders were responsible for a third of them.

“We’re able to identify them early and take them off the street, they do not become a menace to our retail community,” Adams said. “We cannot keep letting these recidivists back on the streets without consequences. That is our concern.”

Last June, the mayor’s office partnered with the NYPD and Fusus, a third-party camera integration platform, on a smaller, free pilot program in the 109th Precinct in Flushing, Queens, the Adams administration said in a statement.

About three dozen businesses enrolled — meaning New York’s Finest knew where their cameras were, and could access the footage in real-time feeds, it added.

During the first two months, the NYPD traced a citywide burglary spree back to two people allegedly involved in a national retail theft operation, city officials said. They arrested an alleged shoplifter who stole more than $1,000 in merchandise from an eyeglass store, according to officials.

This image, released by the US Attorney’s Office, shows two robbers charging into a Manhattan jewelry store. U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

“When we look at the 109 Precinct, and we look around that Main Street corridor … we saw, again, a sharp increase in arrests and a decrease in shoplifting complaints,” Chief of Crime Control Strategies Michael Lipetri said at the press conference.

Afterward, the NYPD signed a one-year agreement with Fusus, in which the city will spend $1.5 million to expand the program to nine other precincts that were selected because of quality-of-life complaints and crime data, the statement said.

“This is a home run,” Adams said Thursday.  

The city’s $1.5 million price tag will go toward installing about 15,000 cameras over the next year — and installing devices in participating stores that will help them connect their security cameras to the NYPD, officials said.

There’s no cost for businesses to join the program.

Security guards and retail managers told The Post they appreciate the help.

“It’s a good idea because crime is so high,” said Rafael Ortiz, a 40-year-old store manager at Home Appliances on East Fordham Road in the Bronx.

“We have 10 cameras in the store, which deters thieves and robbers, but also we have the evidence if anything is taken,” Ortiz told The Post. “There’s a lot of stealing and robbing going on.”

Adams said 542 repeat offenders were responsible for about a third of the city’s 25,000 retail theft arrests in 2023. nuruddean –

Shawn Washington, a security guard at jeweler Alex Diamond nearby, agreed with Ortiz.

“It’s a good idea to allow law enforcement better access,” Washington, 50, told The Post. “CCTV solves a lot of crimes … We don’t get a lot of crime in this store because I’m standing here all day, but the crime around here is insane.”

But it’s still only part of the puzzle, he said. Bail reform must also be addressed.

“This is a stunt to get a story in the newspaper saying Adams is tough on crime,” he said. “But think about it: If the judicial system isn’t going to put people behind bars, then what’s the point? It’s like sweeping a dirt floor.”

In the announcement, city officials were careful to say that business owners can choose how and when the NYPD can access their cameras.

Many agreed that the program was a good idea — especialyl in the wake of armed robberies like this, when gun-wielding robbers busted into a jewelry store in Manhattan in broad daylight last June. U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York

But some aren’t convinced, according to Francisco Mata, president of the NY Bodega and Small Business Association.

“I’ve been trying, but some owners are worried [the police] will be checking everything they do,” he told The Post. “Some have been willing to. It’s a good idea, but it’s going to take time for people to understand that the government isn’t watching everything you do.”

Others, like Tom Grech of the Queens Chamber Of Commerce, had fewer concerns.

“Contrary to some people’s perspectives, there are bad actors out there looking to rip people off and hurt small businesses,” Grech said.

“At the end of the day, I’m on the side of law enforcement,” he continued. “The more we can share information among small businesses and the NYPD, the more we can move on from catch and release. If these people are out there and believe they can steal with impunity they will.

“The only way to get to prosperity is public safety,” he went on. “Bad actors are running around in areas and doing whatever they please.”

Businesses interested in participation or seeking further information can visit the NYPD’s Fusus pilot program online to sign up