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Delaware’s Theft Epidemic: A Silent Economic Killer

 By: Kathleen Rutherford, Executive Director

Crime—burglary, robbery, vandalism, shoplifting, employee theft, and fraud—costs businesses billions of dollars each year. Crime can be particularly devastating to small businesses, who lose both customers and employees when crime and fear claim a neighborhood. When small businesses are victims of crime, they often react by changing their hours of operation, raising their prices to cover their losses, relocating outside the community, or simply closing. Fear of crime isolates businesses, much like fear isolates individuals—and this isolation increases vulnerability to crime.

The success of small businesses in Delaware is vital to a vibrant economy. Small businesses serve the needs of the overall workforce, and any detrimental impacts on small business will affect the economy and consumers. Taxes and regulations are the most obvious issues that impact our businesses, but crime is a significant factor that is often overlooked.

Property crime includes theft, shoplifting, and motor vehicle theft. Every year in Delaware since 2015, the rate of property crime per 100,000 residents was higher than the national average. In 2019 the property crime rate for Delaware was 2.35 per 100,000 residents, while the national rate was 2.1.  When businesses and/or families consider relocating, the “perception” of crime is as important as the actual crime rate. Theft, which includes shoplifting is the most reported property crime in Delaware, accounting for 78% of all major non-violent crimes in the state in 2020.

For businesses, burglary, theft, and shoplifting are of primary significance. Nationally, commercial burglaries in 2019 accounted for 32% of all burglaries reported. In 2019, Shoplifting accounted for 6,016 of the 18,085 thefts reported in Delaware. Shoplifting is a major contributor to the crime problem for businesses. While Delaware law enforcement is performing above the national averages of clearance rates, we remain at a higher rate of property crimes than the nation.

The most efficient way to reduce the crime rate is to prevent it from occurring. Burglary is a preventable crime in most cases. Alarm systems and surveillance equipment are optimal, but “good old fashioned” security is still important. Many burglars have told arresting police officers that they always chose a target that was easier to enter than others in the area. If doors are locked with adequate locking devices, windows secured properly, and a commercial space is visible from outside, burglars will often seek a different target.

Motor vehicle thefts have decreased over the years as built-in security systems have become more common in vehicles. Unfortunately, many people continue to leave their cars unlocked, leading to theft of the car itself, or items inside the car. It is a common practice for thieves to walk down residential streets or through parking lots and enter unlocked vehicles to steal items from inside.

Shoplifting has been a scourge for businesses for many years, and a crime that shows no signs of eradication. There are organized groups of criminals who participate in planned shoplifting operations. Many police agencies today assign officers specifically to units that focus on organized criminal shoplifting groups. The National Retail Federation reports that retail crime is costing businesses more than $700,000.00 for every $1 billion dollars in sales.

The AG’s office, law enforcement and industry organizations working together to educate business owners and employees on prevention techniques by:

  • Restoring the Pre-Pandemic dedicated retail crime unit within the state police, assigned to exclusively to work on organized retail crime (ORC).
  • Ensuring the legislated dedicated Attorney General retail prosecutor is named and assigned workload exclusive to organized retail crime. At monthly in-person meeting with industry businesses, must discuss actions, results, and recommendations to reduce retail crime.
  • Re-establish the monthly in-person meeting with businesses loss prevention, attorney general retail prosecutor, state police ORC task force, court calendar administrator, chambers, and industry groups.
  • Further develop and coordinate technology for mass communication between retailers and detectives for rapid response.
  • Communicate effective enforcement of civil recovery judgments by the courts and collection agencies to offset retailers cost of theft.
  • Holding an annual loss prevention conference including national and regional loss prevention professionals, members of the public, legislators, and other impacted groups with a publicly available annual report of crime issues facing Delaware businesses.

Industry experts attribute the continued rate of shoplifting offenses to reduced staffing at businesses. Michael Quaranta, President of the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, has said “with fewer eyes on would be thieves, that’s only served to embolden those intent on shoplifting”. Quaranta suggested that secured product displays and technology are increasingly depended upon to prevent or detect shoplifting. Fear of violence against employees has also resulted in some businesses adopting policies prohibiting employees from confronting suspected thieves. With the realities facing Delaware, we must double-down on our efforts to communicate and coordinate with all stakeholders.


Delaware to receive $5.5 million in federal funding for internet access projects

From: Delaware Public Media

Delaware is set to receive $5.5 million in federal funding to expand internet access through last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

$500,000 are earmarked for “digital equity” projects – efforts to provide Delawareans with the skills and technology needed to take part in the digital economy. That could include distribution of laptops or tablets to those without a reliable way to access the internet.

The remaining $5 million can be used for an array of infrastructure and workforce development purposes. National Telecommunications and Information Administration Digital Equity Director Angela Thai Bennett says the grants are intentionally open-ended to offer greater flexibility to address unique local challenges.

“You have geographic differences, you have all types of differences within communities that you have to be sensitive to,” she said. “We’re making sure this isn’t a top-down approach, but one in which communities can help co-design what solutions look like for them.”

Bennett also noted that the grants are partially intended to improve the affordability of internet access, including in places where broadband infrastructure already exists.

She added that expanding internet access in low-income communities — public housing projects for instance — could open opportunities for higher-paying employment in remote work, while the workforce training projects funded with the grant could also focus on providing apprenticeships to residents of communities with limited internet access.

The grants do come with guardrails to direct infrastructure spending towards underserved communities. But other details, including the role of labor unions and major broadband providers in workforce development efforts, will be decided once Delaware’s Department of Technology and Information meets with stakeholders in the coming months.

DHSS requests additional 2024 funding to prepare for end of federal public health

From: Delaware Public Media

Delaware’s Department of Health and Social Services outlined its preliminary 2024 budget request earlier this month, with preparations for the end of the federal public health emergency shaping many proposed budget items.

That transition away from the COVID-19-era emergency could have serious ramifications for Delawareans relying on public assistance programs; the emergency declaration brought with it expanded Medicaid access and requirements that states offer continuous coverage to anyone who enrolled in Medicaid before March 2020.

It also gave state agencies responsible for public health and social services greater flexibility in administering food benefits and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs.

But Delaware DHSS Secretary Molly Magarik told Delaware Office of Management and Budget leadership in a 2024 budget hearing earlier this month that her agency is preparing for the end of the federal public health emergency in the coming year.

“When the federal public health emergency does end, in many ways the work is only beginning,” she said. “DHSS will have a significant undertaking to both educate the public about the changing benefit landscape and enact the requirements of what the feds are calling ‘the great unwinding.’”

That will mean disenrolling thousands of Delawareans from Medicaid – a daunting process that will require additional financial support from the state according to Magarik.

Magarik says that recent federal subsidies have made health insurance options plentiful and affordable enough that they may be able to help move some people from Medicaid to the insurance marketplace.

The 2024 budget door-opener presented this month includes nearly $70 million for one-time Medicaid costs stemming from the end of the federal public health emergency.


States differ on how best to spend $26B from settlement in opioid cases

From: Delaware Public Media 

With more than 200 Americans still dying of drug overdoses each day, states are beginning the high-stakes task of deciding how to spend billions of dollars in settlement funds from opioid manufacturers and distributors. Their decisions will have real-world implications for families and communities across the country that have borne the brunt of the opioid crisis.

Will that massive tranche of money be used to help the people who suffered the most and for programs shown to be effective in curbing the epidemic? Or will elected officials use the money for politically infused projects that will do little to offer restitution or help those harmed?

Jacqueline Lewis, of Columbus, Ohio, is wondering exactly that. She lost her son, Shaun, this fall after his 20-year struggle with addiction.

Shaun Lewis died in October 2022 at age 34 after wrestling with an addiction to opioids for 20 years. He was first prescribed the painkillers in middle school.
Shaun Lewis died in October 2022 at age 34 after wrestling with an addiction to opioids for 20 years. He was first prescribed the painkillers in middle school.

After emptying her retirement account and losing her house to pay for his rehab, court fees, and debts to dealers, Lewis is now raising her 7-year-old granddaughter while also caring for her 95-year-old mother with dementia, on nothing more than Social Security payments.

When she heard Ohio would receive $808 million in opioid settlement funds, Lewis thought there’d finally be relief for thousands of families like hers.

She was eager to speak with members of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation, which was created to oversee the distribution of most of Ohio’s funds. As they determined priorities for funding, she wanted them to consider perspectives like hers — that of a mother and grandmother who’d faced addiction up close and saw the need for more treatment centers, addiction education in the workplace, and funding for grandparents raising grandkids as a result of the opioid epidemic.

But she couldn’t find anyone to listen. At an August foundation meeting she attended, board members excused themselves to go into a private session, she said. “They just left the room and left us sitting there.” When she attended another meeting virtually, audience members weren’t allowed to “voice anything or ask questions.”

A local group that advocates for people affected by the opioid epidemic has expressed similar concerns about the lack of opportunities for the public to speak with the foundation. That group is now suing the foundation for a lack of transparency, even though few decisions about funding priorities have been made yet.

Each state has its own approach to spending


The strife in Ohio highlights the tensions emerging nationwide as settlement funds start flowing. The funds come from a multitude of lawsuits, most notably a $26 billion settlement resulting from more than 3,000 cities, counties, and states suing manufacturer Johnson & Johnson and distributors McKesson, AmerisourceBergen, and Cardinal Health for their roles in the opioid crisis.

Payments from that case began this summer and will continue for 18 years, setting up what public health experts and advocates are calling an unprecedented opportunity to make progress against an epidemic that has ravaged America for three decades.

But, they caution, each state seems to have its own approach to these funds, including different distributions between local and state governments and various processes for spending the money. With countless individuals and groups advocating for their share of the pie — from those dealing with addiction and their families to government agencies, nonprofits, health care systems and more — the money’s impact could depend heavily on geography and politics.

“It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s going to a lot of places and going to be spread out over time,” said Sara Whaley, a researcher at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who tracks state use of opioid funds. “It’s not going to magically end this crisis. But if it’s used well and used thoughtfully, there is an opportunity to make a real difference.”

And if not, it could be just another political boondoggle.

How to avoid the ‘tobacco nightmare’


The worst-case scenario, many say, is for the opioid settlement to end up like the tobacco master settlement of 1998.

States won $246 billion over 25 years, but less than 3% of the annual payouts are used for smoking prevention or cessation programs, according to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Most has gone toward filling budget gaps, building roads and subsidizing tobacco farmers.

But there are stronger protections in place for the opioid settlement dollars, said Christine Minhee, founder of a website that tracks the funds.

The arrangement specifies that states must spend at least 70% of the money for opioid-related expenses in the coming years and includes a list of qualifying expenses, like expanding access to treatment and buying the overdose reversal medication naloxone. Fifteen percent of the funds can be used for administrative expenses or to reimburse themselves for past opioid-related expenses. Only the remaining 15% can be spent any way the states choose.

If states don’t meet those thresholds, they could face legal consequences and even see their future payouts reduced, Minhee said.

“The kind of tobacco nightmare stuff where only 3% of funds were spent on what they were meant for is legally and technically impossible,” she said. Though, she added, “a different nightmare is still possible.”

Experts tracking the funds say transparency around who receives the money and how those decisions are made is key to a successful and useful distribution of resources.

In Rhode Island, for instance, public comment is a regular part of opioid advisory committee hearings. In North Carolina and Colorado, online dashboards show how much money each locality is receiving and will track how it is spent.

But other states are struggling.

Mistrust grows when there’s little public input


In Ohio, the document that creates a private foundation to oversee most of the state’s funds says that “the Foundation shall operate in a transparent manner” and that meetings and documents will be public. Yet the OneOhio Recovery Foundation has since said it is not subject to open-meetings law. It has adopted a policy that meetings can be closed if the board decides the content is “sensitive or confidential material that is not appropriate for the general public.”

The contradiction between the board’s actions and how it was conceived led Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio, which distributes naloxone across the state, to sue the foundation. He said he wants the public to have more say in how the funding is spent.

“The board members are in a closed loop, and they’re having a hard time learning what the needs are,” Cauchon said.

Dennis Cauchon is president of Harm Reduction Ohio. His organization has taken legal action to press for more public input and and transparency in how the state's opioid settlement funds are distributed.
Dennis Cauchon is president of Harm Reduction Ohio. His organization has taken legal action to press for more public input and and transparency in how the state’s opioid settlement funds are distributed.

The 29-member board includes representatives of local regions, as well as appointees from the governor, state attorney general and legislative leaders. Many are city- and county-level politicians, and one is the wife of a U.S. senator. They are not paid for their service as board members.

Nathaniel Jordan, executive director of the nonprofit Columbus Kappa Foundation, which distributes naloxone to Black communities in Ohio, has raised concerns about the board’s lack of racial diversity. Since 2017, Black men have had the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the state, he said, but only one board member is Black. “What gives?”

Nathaniel Jordan heads the Columbus Kappa Foundation, a nonprofit that distributes naloxone within hard-hit Black communities in Ohio. He's concerned that the 29-person board of directors of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation includes just one Black member.
Nathaniel Jordan heads the Columbus Kappa Foundation, a nonprofit that distributes naloxone within hard-hit Black communities in Ohio. He’s concerned that the 29-person board of directors of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation includes just one Black member.

Kathryn Whittington, chair of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation, said the board is being “very transparent in what we are doing.” The public can attend meetings in person or online. Recordings of past meetings are posted online, along with the agenda, board packet, and policies discussed — including a draft of the diversity and inclusion policy the board is considering.

People who want to provide input “can always reach out to me as the chair or any other board member,” said Whittington, who added that two of her children have struggled with addiction. But the best option, she said, is to contact one of Ohio’s 19 regional boards. Those groups can elevate local concerns to the foundation board.

“We are still at the very beginning,” Whittington emphasized. No money from the 18-year settlement has been spent yet. The board’s operational expenses — including a $10,000-per-month contract with a public relations firm — is being paid out of $1 million from a previous opioid-related settlement.

But Lewis, the woman raising her granddaughter in Columbus, worries that the day for families to speak may never come.

“They keep saying it’s not ready, and before you know it, they’ll be handing out money and it’ll be too late,” she said.

Rhode Island will spend $2 million on a site where drug use is supervised


Rhode Island is one of the states working fastest to distribute settlement dollars. Its Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which controls 80% of the funds and works with an opioid advisory committee, released a plan to use $20 million by July 2023.

Although the plan doesn’t specify funding for people raising grandchildren, it does allocate $900,000 to recovery supports, which will include community agencies that serve family members, the department said. The single largest allocation, $4 million, will go to school-and community-based mental health programs.

The investment that has sparked the most interest in Rhode Island is $2 million for a supervised drug consumption site. Its location and opening date will be determined by organizations that respond to the state’s request for proposals, said Carrie Bridges Feliz, chair of the opioid settlement advisory committee. At a time when fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is up to 50 times stronger than heroin, is infiltrating most street drugs and overdose rates are high, “we were anxious to make use of these funds,” Bridges Feliz said.

Louisiana plans to give 20% of its share to sheriffs


In contrast, the process of distributing settlement dollars in Louisiana has barely begun. State Attorney General Jeff Landry announced in July 2021 that Louisiana was expected to receive $325 million from the 18-year settlement but has not released any additional information. His office did not respond to repeated inquiries about the status of the funds.

The governor’s office and state health department said they could not answer specific questions about the funds and had not yet been contacted by the attorney general’s office, which negotiated the state’s settlement agreement. Multiple clinicians who treat substance use disorder and advocates who work with people who use drugs were similarly in the dark.

The state’s written plan says it will create a five-person task force to recommend how to spend the money. Kevin Cobb, president of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association, said the group had appointed its representative to the task force, but he didn’t know if other members had been selected or when they would meet.

One decision Louisiana has made so far is to give 20% of the settlement funds directly to sheriffs — a move that has made some people nervous.

My jail problem will resolve itself if we resolve the problem of opioid addiction.

“This plays into an increase in support for an authoritarian response to what are public health issues,” said Nadia Eskildsen, who has worked for syringe service programs and other such groups in New Orleans.

She worries that the money will be funneled toward increasing arrests, rather than helping people find housing, work or health care. Meanwhile, almost 1,400 Louisiana residents died of opioid-related causes last year.

K.P. Gibson, the Acadia Parish sheriff who will represent the sheriffs’ association on the state task force, said his focus is not on punishment, but on getting people into treatment. “My jail problem will resolve itself if we resolve the problem of opioid addiction,” he said.

Many health and policy experts say using settlement funds to pair mental health professionals with police officers or provide medications for opioid use disorder in prisons could reduce deaths.

Maine to spend 3% on special education; Colorado might expand telehealth


States’ choices generally reflect a range of local priorities: While Louisiana has carved out funds for law enforcement, Maine is dedicating 3% of its statewide share for special education programs in schools, and Colorado has allocated 10% to addiction infrastructure, like workforce training, telehealth expansion, and transportation to treatment.

Maine requires that some funds be used for special education because school districts also sued the opioid companies, said state Attorney General Aaron Frey.

Patricia Hopkins said she signed on to the lawsuit because she’s seen the impact of the opioid crisis on students over the past decade as superintendent of school district 11, a rural part of central Maine’s Kennebec County with 1,950 students.

A report compiled by Hopkins’ staff in 2019 showed nearly 4% of students had a parent dealing with addiction.

Sixty miles north, in rural Penobscot County, school district 19 social worker Meghan Baker said she knows two siblings who were home when first responders arrived to revive their parents with naloxone, and another set of siblings who lost their mother to an overdose.

Students who experience this trauma often become angry, act out at school and find it difficult to trust adults. When Baker refers them to counseling services in the community, they encounter waitlists that run six months to a year.

“If we could hire more guidance counselors and social workers, at least we [could] help some of those kids during the school day,” she said.

It’s clear that many people have high hopes for what the billions of dollars in opioid settlement funds arriving over the next two decades can accomplish. But they have questions too, because effectively using this large pot of money requires planning and forethought.

For people like Jacqueline Lewis in Ohio, whose family has lost so much to an epidemic too long ignored, progress feels slow.

Jacqueline Lewis, son Shaun, and his 7-year-old daughter lived together in a family home in Columbus, Ohio, until this fall, when Shaun died of an overdose.
Jacqueline Lewis, son Shaun, and his 7-year-old daughter lived together in a family home in Columbus, Ohio, until this fall, when Shaun died of an overdose.

As she tries to make do on Social Security, Lewis focuses on the positives: Her granddaughter is a happy child, and her older brother lives with them to help out. But the financial worries gnaw at her. And what if her own health falters before her granddaughter is an adult?


Veteran Business Leader and Communications Specialist to Assume Role of Vice Chair

 WILMINGTON, Del. — After two years of dedicated service, Board member Sam Waltz has been promoted to serve as Vice Chair of A Better Delaware, a non-partisan public policy and political advocacy organization that supports pro-growth, pro-jobs policies and greater transparency and accountability in Delaware state government.

Waltz is an award-winning and respected professional leader who remains active in Delaware’s political and business scenes. After serving in the U.S. Armed Forces during the height of the Vietnam War, Waltz returned to complete two degrees, at the University of Illinois.

He would go on to work as a political journalist and state capitol bureau chief for The News Journal before a long public and government relations career. His earlier work as a journalist prompted him in 2014 to found the Delaware Business Times, the state’s leading business news publication.

He served as chair of the Delaware delegation to the 1995 White House Conference on Small Business, chair of two Governor’s Conferences on Small Business in the 1990s, Chair of the Delaware Leadership Council of the National Federation of Independent Businesses between 1997 and 2007 and held committee and board memberships at the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce, New Castle County Chamber of Commerce and Delaware Small Business Chamber.

Chris Kenny, chairman and founder of A Better Delaware, announced Waltz’s promotion last week.

“Since joining ABD in November 2020, Sam has worked tirelessly to recruit and establish a multifaceted Advisory Board that includes former Gov. Mike Castle, renowned elder law attorney Bill Erhart, accomplished obstetrician Dr. Greg DeMeo, nationally recognized climatologist David Legates, and public safety expert Dennis Godek — all of whom share a vision for A Better Delaware and who contribute their expertise to our movement.”

“A Better Delaware’s impact has grown to reach thousands of Delawareans through a multi-channel communications strategy that includes social media, email, direct-web, and op-eds in local newspapers,” Kenny said.

Waltz will continue to build A Better Delaware’s advisory board with professionals in Education, Finance and Family Health to advise on school choice, mental health and substance abuse issues, and state budgetary matters all of which influence Delaware’s economic growth.

Executive Director Kathleen Rutherford hailed Waltz as a driving force behind the organization’s success and a shining light into the organization’s future.

“Sam is an experienced, respected and well-connected leader with a brilliant mind for Delaware’s business and political culture,” Rutherford said. “In two short years, with Sam’s help, A Better Delaware has helped to add five new advisory board members who with their professional advice, will help to make a marked and observable impact on public policy in the First State — but there’s more work to be done.”


There’s no denying the rule of law has a positive economic impact

From: The HillA New York City Police Department officer and a subway conductor look down the subway platform at the Grand Central Terminal subway station, in New York, on May 18, 2021.(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) A New York City Police Department officer and a subway conductor look down the subway platform at the Grand Central Terminal subway station, in New York, on May 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File)

What drives economic growth and job creation, and decreases poverty? This is today’s dominant concern for senior policymakers in our cities, states, and, indeed, the entire country.

Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations provided an answer much earlier in a related context: “Commerce and manufactures can seldom flourish long in any state which does not enjoy a regular administration of justice, in which the people do not feel themselves secure in the possession of their property.” More generally, human progress is a function of ideas, individuals and institutions.

Human capital is more difficult to expropriate. The primary reason most individuals invest in human capital (education, trade apprenticeship, professional training) is it enhances their ability to generate income and create wealth. As property crime and violent crime in a city deteriorate, people living in such cities are motivated to leave and move to safer areas. People with higher education and professional training, aka knowledge workers, are more likely to have the economic resources and job opportunities to move to a safer city. In a mirror image of this phenomenon, companies that employ knowledge workers as human capital would be motivated to move from cities with deteriorating crime to safer cities. As these knowledge workers and companies depart cities with growing crime rates, this has a negative multiplier effect on job creation and economic growth.

Technological innovation, primarily driven by the intellectual and creative efforts of knowledge workers, is a key driver of economic growth. Hence, knowledge workers and companies departing cities due to crime compound the negative multiplier effect.

My colleagues and I constructed two proxies for the rule of law in 199 of the largest U.S. cities: the rate of violent crime per 100,000 people, and the rate of property crime per 100,000 people. Per data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Under the program, property crimes include the offenses of burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. We obtained corresponding data on job growth rates and poverty rates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census and the American Community Surveys.

Figure 1 highlights that cities with higher current property crime rates experience lower job growth rates in the future. Besides the size of the economic pie, which is related to the job growth rate, senior policymakers and media across the country are increasingly concerned about how this pie is sliced in terms of poverty and income inequality.

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Figure 2 highlights that cities that have a higher current property crime rates experience higher poverty rates in the future. Conceptually, as law and order improves in a city, its citizens and businesses have greater confidence that they can enjoy the benefits of their investment in physical and human capital; that increased incentive to invest in physical and human capital leads to more jobs and income for the broader citizenry, resulting in less poverty.

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In a more formal analysis, we found that the above results are statistically significant. Also, we found that cities that had higher current violent crime rates experienced lower job growth rates in the future, and cities that had higher current violent crime rates experienced higher poverty rates in the future. Once again, these relationships are statistically significant.

None of the above results are particularly surprising. In an earlier study, we did a comprehensive analysis of the empirical relationship between economic growth and the rule of law using panel regressions for 134 countries from the period 1984-2019. We documented a significant positive relationship between rule of law and GDP per capita. Also, we documented that countries with greater adherence to rule of law are characterized by less income inequality.

The above analysis leads to the following policy recommendation for political leaders in various cities and states around the country: Focus on ensuring respect for private property rights, effective police forces, prosecutors willing to enforce the rule of law, and fair courts. This will enhance the economic prosperity of your citizens and diminish poverty in your region.

Fed up with the rise in thefts and shoplifting, small-biz owners across U.S. are taking action

From: CNBC News 

  • Shoplifting and theft continue to hurt big retailers and chain stores, but it’s even harder for small businesses still trying to recover from the pandemic.
  • A spokesperson for the National Retail Federation said if someone comes into a store and steals below that state’s federal theft threshold, it’s highly unlikely that law enforcement will go after them.
  • Some small-business owners say they’re losing thousands of dollars each month and won’t submit every claim to insurance out of fear of being dropped.
  • They’re taking matters into their own hands, charging a 1% crime spike fee on all transactions, stepping up security and, as a last resort, shutting down completely.
Small business owners step up security to combat brazen shoplifting
They are brazened, aggressive and seemingly acting without a care in the world.

Shoplifters are hurting big retailers and chain stores, even reportedly forcing some locations in New York City and San Francisco to close up. But unlike many big retailers that can absorb the loss, some small-business owners say the crime wave is devastating to their business, especially now, with many still recovering from a global pandemic.

″[When] you see … several thousand dollars just walk out the door — there really aren’t words that you can put to a situation like that. It’s just tough. It’s very, very difficult,” said small-business owner Derek Friedman.

Small business owner Derek Friedman
Small business owner Derek Friedman

Friedman, who owns two retail clothing chains in Colorado and Texas – Sportsfan and Sock Em’ Sock Emporium – said four out of his 10 stores in the Denver area have seen a significant increase in theft since mid-2019, with losses totaling more than $200,000 in less than three years.—

I didn’t even turn [some claims] into insurance because we would have [been dropped] – and a small business can’t afford to operate without insurance.
Derek Friedman

“Our average losses to theft before the beginning of the spike in 2019 were $2,000-$3,000 per month,” Friedman said. Since then, the retail value of stolen items has “averaged about $8,000 a month,” he said.

Exterior of Sportsfan store in Denver, Colorado
Exterior of Sportsfan store in Denver, Colorado

“We had to delay pay increases … [and] for almost two years, I took no income and just lived off of retirement as we tried to crawl out of Covid and try to recover from all the losses from the brazen theft,” Friedman said.

He’s not alone. According to a recent survey of 700 small-business owners by Business.org, 54% reported an increase in shoplifting last year, with one in four saying they’re dealing with the issue on a weekly basis.

In one surveillance video Friedman shared with CNBC, a shoplifter picks up a jersey and hat, then threatens employees with a 2-foot-long machete and walks out of the store with stolen merchandise. Friedman said he reported the incident to police, but to his knowledge, no one was apprehended.

Friedman said he was on the brink of losing his insurance because of the number of incidents his businesses were enduring.

“I didn’t even turn [some claims] into insurance because we would have [been dropped] — and a small business can’t afford to operate without insurance,” he said.

Last week, Friedman implemented a 1% crime-spike fee to help offset his losses at four of his hardest-hit Denver stores, which will be added to all transactions indefinitely. And that may be just the starting point.

“Hopefully, we don’t have to raise it,” he said. “I understood that [shoplifting was always a part of doing business] when I bought retail stores … but not at this level. We didn’t sign up for that, and it’s not right, — and it needs to change.”

I’ve been here for 12 years. It was never like this – never.
Peter Panayiotou

Peter Panayiotou, the owner of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City, said he is always the first one in and last one out. He is so concerned about the rise in theft, he said, that he doesn’t remember the last time he took a day off.

Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits owner Peter Panayiotou
Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits owner Peter Panayiotou

“I come in before my guys and … I don’t leave the store until I close at 10 p.m. Why is that? Because I don’t want to leave them alone here,” Panayiotou said.

In one surveillance video the shop owner shared with CNBC from last month, a man grabs a bottle of liquor and races out the door. Panayiotou chases after him, but the man gets away. That scene, he said, is playing out now more than ever before.

″ [I’ve been] here for 12 years. It was never like this — never,” he said, recalling a man who was coming into the store each day to swipe two bottles of Jack Daniels off the shelf.

Exterior of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City
Exterior of Cellar 53 Wine & Spirits in New York City

Panayiotou said he is securing his most expensive wine bottles to shelves with zip ties he bought on Amazon. Meanwhile, he’s also acting double duty as a security. And when he spots a thief, he immediately locks the door.

“I tell them, ‘Put it back — it’s not worth it.’ If they put it back and they leave, it’s fine. If they don’t, I lock the door until I take back what they got from me.” Panayiotou said. “I can’t depend on the police anymore. I just have to protect my business.”

According to Jason Straczewski, the National Retail Federation’s vice president of government and political affairs, if someone comes into a store and steals below that state’s federal theft threshold, it’s highly unlikely that law enforcement will go after them — unless it’s part of a frequent occurrence or it’s a group that law enforcement is tracking.

“Several states are looking at ways to aggregate multiple crimes so that when an individual does go above the felony theft threshold, it will be easier to bring charges against that individual — or group of individuals — as well,” Straczewski said.

So many people think you can walk out [with a pair of shoes], and not have to pay for it, and you won’t get prosecuted.
Caroline Cho

In Seattle, Caroline Cho’s business, Sneaker City, has been in her family for three decades. But break-ins and brazen thieves — literally walking out with shoes in broad daylight — forced her to change the way customers tried on the merchandise.

Sneaker City owner Caroline Cho
Sneaker City owner Caroline Cho

The solution she came up with? Allowing customers to try on only one shoe at a time.

″ [It was] the only way to protect my inventory,” said Cho. “So many people think you can walk out [with a pair of shoes], and not have to pay for it, and you won’t get prosecuted.”

But her losses still added up. And when her landlord hiked her rent, she decided to liquidate her inventory and shut down for good, Cho said.

Exterior of Sneaker City in Seattle, WA
Exterior of Sneaker City in Seattle, WA

“It’s very bittersweet because you’re saying bye to something that you grew up with, that your family sacrificed a lot to make grow and that supported us,” Cho said. “But it’s also a little bit of a relief … because it was just getting to be too much.”

Decline in Volunteer Firefighters Impacts Communities Nationwide

From: Impacting Our Future For years the dramatic decline in the number of volunteer firefighters, particularly young ones, has been threatening the ability of small departments to provide an essential public service.

Most people may not think this potential crisis impacts them, however almost 70 percent of firefighters across the nation are volunteers. It’s not just about fighting fires since most calls are for emergency medical services.

Several years ago the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported a majority of volunteer firefighters in the United States are over the age of 50. And while the number of on-call firefighters is decreasing, the demand for fire and rescue services is increasing — especially for EMS.

Some volunteer fire service statistics

  • As of February 2020, NFPA says there are an estimated 29,705 U.S. fire departments and 19,112 of them are all volunteer.
  • National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and NFPA report there are approximately 1,115,000 firefighters across the country and 745,000 (or 67 percent) are volunteers.
  • NVFC and NFPA also state the time donated by volunteer firefighters saves communities across the country an estimated $46.9 billion per year.

Recruitment obstacles

Back in 1980, a firefighter needed only 36 hours of training. Today that number has grown to hundreds of hours to obtain firefighter certification depending on the state. Earning the certification can take up to a year for someone working a regular job and taking the training in the evenings.

Because fire departments have expanded the scope of their duties to include answering emergency medical calls, many firefighters also are emergency medical technicians, which requires another 100 to 250+ hours of training.

Plus, the estimated cost to train and equip a firefighter can exceed $20,000 so it is a major investment for both volunteer firefighters as well as for communities.

But without volunteers, the fire departments can’t offer the fire and rescue protection to residents they are commissioned to offer. Aside from the safety repercussions, insurance service office ratings can cause home insurance rates for homeowners to go up several hundred dollars a year in communities without a fire department or volunteer fire department.

Get involved

Something the COVID-19 outbreak, and recent riots have demonstrated to the public is during an emergency or disaster there may be a delay before public safety officials can arrive on scene so people should learn some basic preparedness, medical and response skills.

Some programs and resources for civilians, civic clubs, businesses, faith-based organizations and others include:

  • Fire Corps — A national initiative to recruit community members into local fire and EMS departments to perform non-emergency roles allowing department members to focus on training and emergency response while at the same time increasing the services and programs the department can offer. Fire Corps is a component of the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps initiative and is administered on a national level by the NVFC. For more information, visit www.firecorps.org.
  • Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) — Educates volunteers about disaster preparedness for the hazards that may impact their area and trains them in basic disaster response skills, such as fire safety, light search and rescue, team organization, and disaster medical operations. CERT offers a consistent, nationwide approach to volunteer training and organization that professional responders can rely on during disaster situations, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks. Learn more at www.ready.gov/cert
  • Fire is Everyone’s Fight® — A national initiative of the U.S. Fire Administration to reduce home fire injuries, deaths and property loss by changing how people think about fire and fire prevention. Learn how to help your fire department increase community awareness about preventing home fires at www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/fief/
  • USFRA Family Preparedness ebook — Tips on what people should think about and do before, during and after several types of emergencies and disasters, as well as how to administer basic first aid. Download a free 62-page ebook at www.fedhealth.net/usfra.html
  • And finally, any local departments needing help recruiting and retaining personnel, the NVFC’s Make Me A Firefighter™ program has resources, tools, and customizable outreach materials for agencies at www.MakeMeAFirefighter.org.

Find more resources for agencies and the public at www.usfra.org and www.myusfra.org

Effectiveness over Urgency is Key to Improving Student Performance in Wilmington

From: Caesar Rodney Institute

Wilmington’s Poor Test Scores (before & after COVID-19)

 The 2022 statewide K-12 test scores on the Smarter Balanced Assessment given by Delaware’s Department of Education are not encouraging. Only 30% of Delaware students in 3rd to 8th grade met grade-level math requirements, while just 42% were proficient in English Language Arts.

The test scores pre-COVID-19 are worse for the eight city schools in the Christina, Red Clay, and Brandywine school districts that are slated to be included in the proposed Wilmington Learning Collaborative– see Graph 1 below. In 2019 less than 1/4 of students in Wilmington were proficient in math, while less than 1/3 of students were proficient in English Language Arts (ELA). These scores were before COVID-19, school closures, and remote learning.

Graph 1: Pre-COVID-19
The test scores post-COVID-19 following the remote learning and learning loss caused by school closures were even worse- see Graph 2 below. In 2022, 1 in 10 students were proficient in math, and less than 2 in 10 students were proficient in ELA. We are dealing with some terribly performing schools.
Graph 2: Post-COVID-19
(Graph 2 Source: https://data.delaware.gov/Education/Student-Assessment-Performance/ms6b-mt82. Note: Red Clay- Shortlidge, no scores (K-2nd); Christina- Stubbs Early Ed., no scores.)  Governor Carney’s Answer to Wilmington, Delaware’s Poor Test Scores: ‘Wilmington Learning Collaborative’

The proposed Wilmington Learning Collaborative (WLC) is the latest attempt in the state of Delaware to decrease the learning gap between city students and those in the suburbs of New Castle County, DE. There were several early editions of the WLC Agreement that proposed ideas that have been found in research to be effective in improving education. These included:

   Having greater community involvement in the academic and   extracurricular activities of the schools.

  Allowing principals and teachers more flexibility to tailor the     education assets they provide to the specific needs of the students.

However, as the negotiations have continued between the state and the three districts involved (Red Clay, Brandywine, and Christina), several other groups, including the Delaware State Education Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have added their ideas to the Agreement.

The Agreement has gotten more extensive and complicated with additional layers of bureaucracy, therefore, losing the beneficial academic flexibility that once characterized it.

Several WLC Board Members from the three school districts had some valid concerns with the proposed WLC. These include:

 Who will be held accountable and liable for actions carried out by the WLC?

 What is being done for the city kids currently attending schools outside of the city (particularly in the Brandywine School District)?

Many of the ideas of the WLC are already being implemented by the school districts (expressed by Darrell Green, Superintendent of Red Clay School District).

At the Caesar Rodney Institute, we think catering to the interests of the various groups that have now been added to the new WLC Agreement will not lead to the needed change for students in Wilmington who have been suffering for decades.

CRI’s Plea to Governor Carney for a Successful Student Outcome: Create a new experimental school entity We believe that taking a different direction is required for a successful outcome.

Governor Carney has already had, by his own count, more than 200 meetings with ‘stakeholders’ like school board members, superintendents, their staff, Wilmington city officials, and other interested parties who have contributed their ideas to the increasingly unwieldy WLC Agreement.

The Governor, however, has another option: go to the Legislature to create a new experimental school entity. The Caesar Rodney Institute (CRI) proposes:

Drafting legislation that creates a new experimental school entity. This new school entity would comply with the Delaware Code as it relates to public schools and be accountable to the citizens of the state. It would have a seven-member board or council, each member of which would be elected by Wilmington voters – not appointed by the Governor or at the behest of certain interest groups.

The person responsible for managing the eight schools would be a “Director” appointed by the elected seven-member board or council.

Each school should continue to have a “Principal” directly reporting to the Director. The important issues such as state funding, insurance, budgets, and administrative support will be spelled out in the draft Legislation. The Delaware Department of Education has the facts to supply these numbers.

Conclusion:  Effectiveness over Urgency

The statement repeatedly heard at the joint meeting of the three school districts, the Governor, and the Department of Education that “we have to do something” and “we cannot wait” are recipes for disaster. Doing “something” is not a good idea when the “something” will only exacerbate the ongoing problems that students in Wilmington have faced for decades.

Going through the Legislature to create a separate set of schools with more autonomy is a better solution than creating a half-hearted “collaborative” where no one knows who is responsible or liable for what.

The initial goal of more local governance is undermined by extra levels of bureaucracy, including a 12-person council which will be ineffective in its decision-making.

The next legislative session is less than three months away-plenty of time for drafting the law to create this streamlined experimental school entity.

Students in Delaware Are Falling Behind on Reading Tests

From: The Center Square 

Over two years have passed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects continue to extend far beyond public health. A recent report released by the National Assessment of Educational Progress reveals a staggering decline in math and reading skills among the nation’s fourth and eighth grade students.

Specifically, the share of fourth-graders and the share of eighth-graders who are considered proficient in reading each fell by 3 percentage points since 2019, the last time the standardized test was administered. While there is no single explanation for the trend, experts attribute the historic decline primarily to the disruptions stemming from the pandemic.

Based on the latest NAEP test results, also known as the nation’s report card, only 33% of fourth-graders and 31% of eighth-graders are proficient in reading. In some states, reading proficiency rates are even lower.

In Delaware, just 25% of fourth-grade students and 24% of eighth-graders are proficient in reading. The average proficiency rate among the two grades of 24.5% is below the national average of 32% and fourth lowest among states.

In 2021, the federal government invested $123 billion in public education to help students catch up in the wake of the pandemic. The latest test results reveal it may take billions more. While the link between per pupil spending and student outcomes is complicated, many states with lower-than-average test scores also spend less on education than most – Delaware, however, is an exception. According to the latest data from the Department of Education, Delaware public schools spend an average of $15,910 per pupil annually, the 11th highest among states.

State Avg. reading proficiency rate (%) 4th graders proficient in reading (%) 8th graders proficient in reading (%) Annual per pupil spending ($)
New Mexico 19.5 21 18 10,167
West Virginia 22 22 22 11,944
Oklahoma 22.5 24 21 9,144
Delaware 24.5 25 24 15,910
Alabama 25 28 22 10,076
Alaska 25 24 26 18,393
Mississippi 26.5 31 22 9,303
Texas 26.5 30 23 9,697
Louisiana 27.5 28 27 11,800
Nevada 28 27 29 9,159
Arkansas 28 30 26 10,084
Michigan 28 28 28 11,211
Oregon 28 28 28 11,778
Kansas 28.5 31 26 11,387
North Carolina 29 32 26 9,747
Tennessee 29 30 28 9,870
Missouri 29 30 28 11,243
North Dakota 29 31 27 13,453
Maine 29 29 29 14,720
Arizona 29.5 31 28 8,648
South Carolina 29.5 32 27 11,359
Kentucky 30 31 29 11,291
California 30.5 31 30 13,679
Iowa 31 33 29 11,271
Minnesota 31 32 30 12,648
New York 31 30 32 23,429
South Dakota 31.5 32 31 10,139
Georgia 31.5 32 31 11,131
Montana 31.5 34 29 11,834
Nebraska 31.5 34 29 12,306
Virginia 31.5 32 31 12,640
Idaho 32 32 32 7,895
Indiana 32 33 31 10,137
Maryland 32 31 33 15,148
Wisconsin 32.5 33 32 12,575
Pennsylvania 32.5 34 31 15,252
Illinois 32.5 33 32 15,835
Rhode Island 32.5 34 31 16,983
Washington 33 34 32 14,031
Hawaii 33 35 31 16,132
Florida 34 39 29 9,645
Ohio 34 35 33 12,372
Wyoming 34 38 30 16,304
Vermont 34 34 34 16,359
New Hampshire 35 37 33 17,452
Connecticut 35 35 35 20,271
Colorado 36 38 34 10,900
Utah 36.5 37 36 7,888
New Jersey 40 38 42 19,852
Massachusetts 41.5 43 40 17,787