String of thefts at Columbia Heights CVS leaves shelves bare

Shoplifting rings have targeted a CVS store in Northwest D.C., which the company said has resulted in thefts that have left the shelves empty.

On Thursday afternoon, the Columbia Heights pharmacy had a line of customers, but almost all of the shelves were empty. There were a few exceptions, such as some food products, vitamins and printer ink, but even the store’s refrigerators were almost entirely empty.

Many people walked in and then quickly out.

Columbia Heights CVS
Nearly empty shelves at the Columbia Heights CVS which has been hit by a wave of shoplifting. (WTOP/Scott Gelman)

The store has a security guard on site during regular store hours. The guard told WTOP it is security’s responsibility to protect customers and employees rather than chase after shoplifters. He called it the worst CVS store in the D.C. region when it comes to theft, and said one person regularly comes in and fills up a suitcase with merchandise.

Two men came into the store Thursday with reusable shopping bags, and the guard suspected they had just filled them up with store items.

One shopper who said she works across the street called the store “the emptiest CVS I have ever seen.”

“You basically have to go to another CVS to get what you want,” she said. “It’s almost empty.”

Kathryn Camicia stopped by the store for a vaccine, a process she said “worked very well.” But then, when she went to look for travel items for an upcoming trip, there weren’t any.

She said she’s never seen a CVS with such empty shelves.

“Not in D.C., maybe in some third-world country,” Camicia said.

In a statement, a company spokeswoman said CVS has worked with local law enforcement to “identify and dismantle several major shoplifting rings and will continue to do so. In addition, we’re supporting new initiatives to combat retail theft in partnership with the DC Attorney General’s Office.”

But, the spokeswoman said, the company has no plans to close any of its D.C. stores.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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