Retail Crime Growing in Severity: NRF

WASHINGTON — Retailers are reporting that organized retail crime (ORC) is growing in severity, volume and type, according to a new survey from the National Retail Federation.

Of the 125 retail companies surveyed for NRF’s eighth annual Organized Retail Crime Survey, a record-setting 96% said their company has been the victim of organized retail crime in the past year, up from 94.5% last year, and another 87.7% said ORC activity in the United States has grown over the past three years.

"What this tells us is that as retailers and law enforcement become more aware of and more proactive in pursuing organized retail crime gangs, criminals have become more desperate and brazen in their efforts, stopping at nothing to get their hands on large quantities of merchandise,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention Rich Mellor, in a statement. “Selling this stolen merchandise is a growing criminal enterprise and retailers must remain vigilant as this is an issue that involves everyone's cooperation when it comes to protecting retailer's assets, including their valued store associates and customers."

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The silver lining: More companies this year said they believe law enforcement is aware of and understands the severity and complexity of the issue (40% vs. 32.3% in 2011). More than half (54.4%) said top management at their company is aware of the problems associated with organized retail crime.

Cargo theft continues to grow at an alarming rate, posing huge problems for retailers and their distribution centers, NRF said. On average, 52.1% of companies said they have been a victim of cargo theft in the past 12 months, up from 49.6% last year. A significantly higher percent of companies this year said cargo theft occurs mostly en route from the distribution center to the store (68.1% vs. 57.4% last year).

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The survey also indicated a growing trend in the level of violence retailers see when organized criminal gangs are apprehended (15% of incidents vs. 13% in 2011). Retailers grappling with these violent acts also report that they believe more ORC offenders are engaged in drug activity. Nearly half (49%) of respondents estimate drugs and drug activity are linked to organized retail crime incidents.

NRF said it strongly believes that organized retail crime must be addressed through federal legislation that would amend the Federal Criminal Code to effectively address the organized and serious nature of this issue and define it as a federal crime with appropriate sentencing guidelines.  Federal law enforcement would also benefit from receiving the resources needed to combat this crime.