ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Monroe Avenue store owners are banding together to combat a rise of shoplifting incidents many tell us have continued to get worse.
Owners News 8 spoke with were citing both the post-pandemic era as well as increased stress around the holidays as potential factors which may be contributing to more frequent occurrences. This comes as there were two reported armed carjackings around the Monroe Avenue area this past weekend, according to police.
Aaron’s Alley is considered a Rochester staple on Monroe Avenue, operating for 33 years. Owner Jennifer Plunkett says it was several months ago she, along with a handful of other owners on Monroe, started talking in a group text chat to help stay better connected.
This idea is being spear-headed by the Monroe Ave Merchants Association as of the spring, with a more organized approach as of August/September. The group is also looking to expand this into a pilot project due to all of the interest.
Plunkett gave an example of this text group in action, recalling an incident where a person stole from a store a few buildings down, prompting the owner to send a picture of the suspect to the chat to alert other owners of what happened. Then, Plunkett says as she was holding the picture in her hands on her phone, the suspect appeared at her store door, so she was able to safely turn them away.
“I think it helps me feel proactive and then I’m able to provide good information to the police department to support our efforts. If something happens at a different business and I’ve described or I have a picture off of my security cameras, then we can actually put some stuff together — maybe even solve some situations,” Plunkett said.
It’s designed to be a way to directly and in “near-real-time” communicate with other store owners about shoplifting incidents, aiming to empower owners to have more knowledge about what’s going on on the block.
“We’ve brought in other neighborhood associations as well, which I think is really important to the vitality of our community because it’s not just us merchants; it’s the people who are living here. We’re here 12, 13 hours a day —sometimes more— but they’re here 24/7 and by working alongside them, we’re able to have more fluid communication and also just more support, people looking out for one another,” says Elyssa Rossi, President of the Monroe Ave. Merchant’s Association.
This also is coming at a time when owners describe feeling a great revival of new businesses and building owners on Monroe Ave., which is also helping to strenghthen the connections there. Randy Gill and Kristy Gabel are the Co-Owners of Medusa’s, an adult novelty store, which sits on the corner of S. Union St. and Monroe Ave. They explain what actions they are also taking to address what they, too, have experienced since launching the store almost a year ago.
“We have actually taken a more aggressive tone with the theft because you’re basically stealing out of our pockets. We’re small business owners, we’ve only been here a year and every time someone steals from us, it is literally quantifiable how much they’re taking from us,” says Randy Gill, Medusa’s Co-Owner.
The Merchant’s Association is aiming to switch the group text chat to a third party system in the coming weeks as more and more owners express interest.
“It’s setting that precedence that, you can attempt and that’s cool, but Monroe Avenue — it ain’t gonna last long, okay? We’re gonna know, the information is going to be shared so you’re not gonna get a way with it on here,” Rossi adds.
Any images of shoplifting suspects discussed in the group text chat are then sent to a clickable desktop document to help owners more effectively access the information without having to sift back through text conversations.