Bloomfield police to increase patrols at Copaco Shopping Center to curb shoplifting

Bloomfield police are increasing patrols at Copaco Shopping Center after a persistent pattern of shoplifting.

Bloomfield police are increasing patrols at Copaco Shopping Center after a persistent pattern of shoplifting.

Emily DiSalvo/ Hearst Connecticut Media

BLOOMFIELD — Police will increase patrols at several businesses, including Copaco Shopping Center, in an effort to reduce shoplifting. 

Bloomfield Police Chief Paul Hammick said shoplifting at Copaco, which includes Stop & Shop, Lowe's and Burlington Coat Factory, has been an "ongoing problem."

Police activity logs show that between Jan. 18 and Jan. 23, police were called to Copaco 32 times. Arrest logs show that between Jan. 3 and Jan. 24, there were five larceny arrests in Bloomfield, but whether they were tied to Copaco is unclear. 

Shoplifting at Copaco has been on the radar of Deputy Mayor Greg Davis, who serves on the Public Safety Committee of  the Bloomfield Town Council. He said the problem increased starkly following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

"As we try to work our way out of COVID, we were hoping that the numbers would start to decline, but I think people are still suffering and having a hard time and resorting to theft," Davis said. 

Minutes from the monthly Public Safety Committee meetings show Copaco as a regular topic of conversation. The minutes from May 2022 reported a 51 percent increase in crime in Bloomfield, with 52 incidents of larceny. The minutes also cited a "significant increase in shoplifting."

In June 2022, there were 56 incidents of larceny, 35 of which were shoplifting, "primarily at Copaco," according to the minutes. This was also the case in October 2022. 

Noel Cazenave, professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut, said shoplifting is often a symptom of societal problems, not a cause. 

"I think people stealing food, especially basic food items, and that's because of need," Cazenave said. 

Cazenave added that a lack of structure and programming could lead young people to begin shoplifting or partaking in other risky behaviors.

"Right now, we never seem to have enough money for the police," Cazenave said. "But we don't have money for midnight basketball. For young people, we give them nothing, but we expect everything out of them. We expect them to be fully functioning adults, when in fact young people do stupid stuff."

Cazenave said he has seen a "tension" after the pandemic play out in fights at sporting games, increased petty crimes and even people facing struggles with mental illness and drugs right outside his window in Hartford.

"I think that we see a kind of a breakdown in the larger society due to a combination of the pandemic of racism, economic injustice, a fractured political system that makes it difficult for people to believe that they should even follow the rules," Cazenave said.