Organized retail crime (ORC) is booming. Unlike shoplifting, ORC involves professional thieves operating as a network of “boosters” and “fences” who steal, repackage, and resell staggering amounts of stolen goods daily. Hot on today’s “shopping list” are electronics, DVDs, CDs, razor blades, liquor, over-the-counter medicine, baby formula, health and beauty care items, and meat, among other goods.
A 2007 National Retail Federation (NRF) organized retail crime (ORC) survey of loss prevention executives found that 79 percent of respondents said their companies have been a victim of ORC.
Stores collectively lose billions as an industry to this crime, and those costs are passed on to consumers. More troubling, there is evidence that these criminals sometimes funnel the money from their thefts to terrorist groups.
Retailers are fighting back. They are using antitheft devices as well as other technology to make it harder for boosters to hide the origin of stolen goods. They are also using software to help them spot connections in crimes.
In addition, they are getting staff involved in prevention. Randall’s and Tom Thumb Food Markets dedicates staff specifically to ORC.
Most recently, the Retail Industry Leaders Association and NRF joined forces to launch the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), a secure, Web-based computer database that will allow retailers to share ORC information with each other and with law enforcement.
In another initiative, the ASIS International Organized Retail Crime Committee is putting together a best practices training guide for the benefit of all retailers.
Karen E. Thuermer is a freelance writer based in Alexandria, Virginia.