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The Zen of Shoplifting

Forget bedbugs. East Village storekeepers said they’ve been dealing this summer with a persistent case of sticky fingers.

While the New York Police Department reported 100 robberies and burglaries in the area during the steamy summer months, storekeepers say it’s not only gun-wielding intruders they’re concerned about — it’s shoplifters.

From 2002-2009, the number of arrests for shoplifting in the city has increased to 23,237 from 13,826, according to NYPD reports.

“We see a lot of the professional shoplifters,” said Dwijen Byapari, 52, an assistant manager at Stuyvesant Stationery at 438 East 14th Street. “They come wearing a hood, they cover their face.” They know the stores have surveillance cameras, he said. “They are very professional.”

Mr. Byapari has worked behind the counter of the small, cluttered shop for eight years. It stocks everything from Hallmark greeting cards to decorative tchotchkes to Silly Bandz.

Strangely, Mr. Byapari said the most commonly shoplifted item is a Masterlock brand combination lock — an item that sells for $6.99. Other commonly stolen items are Gelly Roll pens and Hallmark cards, all easily shoved in a pocket or hidden under an oversize jacket.

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