NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Small businesses already struggling from the coronavirus pandemic are now dealing with a series of robberies.

Some store owners said the NYPD needs to do more to stop thieves from hurting their bottom line, CBS2’s Christina Fan reported Monday.

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Khairi Naji says catching shoplifters at his Hell’s Kitchen deli has become like a game of Whac-A-Mole. The thefts happen six to seven times a day, at all hours, to the point he’s given up on calling police.

“They told me, ‘I’m going to take him, but he’s going to come back,'” said Naji.

Bodega and deli owners in the city told CBS2 crime has never before been this out of hand.

Naji showed CBS2 video from June, when a man allegedly tried stealing from him with two uniformed officers in sight.

“Before… those homeless, or something, when they see the police officer come here they left. But, now, they stay. They don’t care. They’re not scared,” said Naji.

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From retail to restaurants, employees said the root of the problem is a lack of police presence.

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They said the patrol cops they used to know by name haven’t been seen on the streets in months.

CBS2 asked the NYPD about it, but did not get an answer.

“I witnessed myself that there was a lady coming out with a full stack of stuff that was underneath her t-shirt, and the security guard at the store was fighting with her with some items that she had,” said Carrie Leon.

New numbers from the NYPD show burglaries and robberies are both up in the last 28 days compared to last year.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said he plans to set up a meeting with bodega owners to gauge how bad the problem is.

“The line that got me was that we don’t even want to call the police anymore because the people just get a ticket and they get released after they get arrested, and we got to come to a better place than that,” said Shea.

Naji said he’s not sure what the solution is.

He said if such blatant crimes go unchecked, he’ll be forced to return home to Yemen, a country he fled in order to survive.

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