In a surprising turn of events, a CVS store in the heart of Washington, DC, has had to adopt an unconventional approach to combat rampant thefts that have gripped the nation’s capital. Instead of allowing vital necessities like toilet paper and paper towels to vanish off their shelves due to rampant theft, the store has replaced these items with framed photos, showcasing the products customers so desperately need.

The CVS location, nestled on H Street NE, has been grappling with an alarming surge in thefts. As reports of robberies in DC surged by a staggering 68% in 2023 compared to the previous year, it became evident that something had to be done to protect essential items from disappearing without a trace.

The rising trend of smash-and-grab robberies across major cities in the United States has left retailers nationwide struggling to cope. Businesses are faced with the daunting task of either locking up their merchandise or shutting their doors altogether. However, CVS in DC has chosen to tackle this issue in a distinctive manner, and it’s capturing the nation’s attention.

If a customer now requires toilet paper or paper towels at this particular CVS store, they must simply tap a buzzer placed on the empty shelves. This summons a store employee who will promptly retrieve the requested items from a secure back room. The move, which may seem unusual at first glance, was prompted by the unfortunate reality of homeless individuals snatching these products off the shelves and leaving without paying.

Homelessness is a complex issue facing many urban areas, and H Street in Washington, DC, has long been home to a substantial homeless population. Ben Atanga, owner of a wellness studio in Maryland and a customer at the CVS store, recognizes that the theft of basic necessities is not confined to any one area. He opined, “This is not just an H Street or a DC problem — this is something that’s going on all over the country, right? The economy is going up, cost of living is going up… If people are stealing items, necessities, you know, I think maybe we should take a look at that. Maybe those are things that we don’t increase or maybe as a community we provide that… ‘Hey look, you can come pick up toiletries and stuff like that, so that you can take care of yourself.'”

The situation in DC is not unique, as other major cities are grappling with similar challenges. New York City has witnessed a 64% increase in reported incidents of retail theft between mid-2019 and June of the current year. Meanwhile, Los Angeles experienced a 61% surge in retail theft over the same time frame. The NYPD confirmed that there have been more than 93,000 incidents of petty larceny so far this year, a 29% increase compared to two years ago.

In fact, Los Angeles saw a staggering 109% increase in reported retail theft incidents in the first six months of 2023, making it the highest in the country, according to a recent report by the Council on Criminal Justice. Furthermore, the National Retail Federation, a trade group representing US retailers, reported that chains suffered a staggering $112 billion in losses due to organized theft rings in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Houston last year alone.

The CVS store’s innovative approach to protecting its merchandise has garnered widespread attention, highlighting the challenges businesses face in today’s climate of rising thefts. As retailers nationwide grapple with these issues, the nation watches closely, hoping for innovative solutions to combat this growing problem.

In an environment where even basic necessities are not safe from theft, businesses like the Washington, DC, CVS store are taking action to ensure that their customers can access the products they need while also addressing the larger issues at play in our society.