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Progressives' Criminal Justice Reforms Are Creating More 'Food Deserts'

The Hill

For over a decade, there's been a national discussion about “food deserts,” usually defined as low-income neighborhoods with little or no access to retail stores that offer fresh and nutritious food options. Progress had been made in reducing the problem — until progressive district attorneys and other city officials began imposing their criminal justice reforms. Thanks to them, food deserts are increasing once again.

It’s become a regular part of the news cycle. Major retail chains, many of which are grocery stores, announce they are closing their doors, primarily in inner-city and low-income areas.

Whole Foods, Walmart, Kroger and Target have all recently announced they would be exiting some major urban areas, according to the Washington Post. And it’s not just retail outlets that sell food. Nike, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Best Buy, Walgreens and Old Navy are also pulling out of some downtown areas.

Which cities are seeing the exodus? The bastions of progressivism: San Francisco, Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Seattle, just to name some of the most notable cases.

While there were several reasons food deserts emerged in the past, there is one primary cause of why they are reemerging today: Record levels of unchecked theft and crime that make stores not just unprofitable, but unsafe for employees and customers.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which conducts an annual survey of retail loss and other security challenges, announced in its 2022 survey that U.S. “shrink,” which includes many types of loss but mostly theft, was $94.5 billion for 2021, up from $90.8 billion in 2020. That figure included a 26.5 percent increase in organized retail crime (ORC) in 2021.

ORC-related theft almost certainly increased significantly in the past year and a half, since the end of the last survey. Even more concerning, “Eight in 10 retailers surveyed report that the violence and aggression associated with ORC incidents increased in the past year.” If employees or even customers try to stop the theft, violent and aggressive thieves may respond by physically attacking the staff.

The report claims retailers planned to increase resources to address the crime and mitigate losses and the threat of violence, but that was a year and a half ago. It’s clear that many major retailers have now concluded they must reduce their exposure to high-crime areas. That means more food deserts and less access to nutritious food options.

In April, the British paper the Daily Mail ran a story highlighting many of the major U.S. grocery and department stores facing unacceptable levels of crime and violence due to progressive officials’ inaction: “Walmart decided to shut 17 of its stores across nine states after CEO Doug McMillon warned in December that theft was the highest it’s ever been around the country and if it did not slow down, stores would have to close.”

Walmart closed its last two stores in Portland, Oregon, due to the significant losses. As the Daily Mail notes, “Portland is widely viewed as America’s most progressive and permissive city, with crime spiraling out of control there and murders hitting an all-time high in 2022.” It appears even London is aware of Portland’s failure.

And just so no one is confused about who is to blame for all of the crime, the Daily Mail adds, “Progressive district attorneys in cities like Chicago, New York, Portland and California have also been blamed for effectively legalizing shoplifting with either not prosecuting thefts under $950, or letting criminals off with a slap on the wrist.”

So progressive city DAs announce they will not prosecute shoplifters for stealing less than $950 — though no one actually seems to be checking to see that the thieves don’t go over their shoplifting limit — and crime explodes. Who knew?!

The Daily Mail helpfully provides a number of videos of the thefts and attacks in various stores, with headlines like: “Shocking moment when Walmart worker is beaten by brazen shoplifter”; “Homeless shoplifter steals 70-inch TV, 22nd time in three months”; “Looters steal $10,000 worth of merchandise from NYC’s Macys”; and, in a counternarrative, “Best Buy workers swarm to stop shoplifters from stealing phones.”

Best Buys’ workers need to be careful. If the thieves get hurt, a leftist DA will likely prosecute the employees rather than the criminals.

Needless to say, these are not examples of Victor Hugo’s “Les Misérables” character Jean Valjean, who is sentenced to five years in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his sister’s starving children. Though that’s exactly who progressives want you to think they are helping with their lenient arrest and bail policies. Do starving children eat big-screen TVs?

As these stores close up and pull out, there will be more food deserts, making it more difficult for low-income and inner-city residents to find fresh-food options.

Progressives will whine about the closures and blame “greedy retailers” and “racist policies” for the departures. But there is one primary reason why food deserts are growing again: progressives’ soft-on-crime policies. Until residents finally vote these scoundrels out of office, they can expect to see more crime and less fresh food.