Organized retail crime (ORC) deals with professional shoplifters, crime networks, cargo theft, Internet crimes, and other organized criminal activities that occur in the retail setting. These highly organized, often mobile, and sometimes complex structures and hierarchies provide a tremendous threat to the retail industry.
ORC involves the association of two or more persons engaged in illegally obtaining retail merchandise through both theft and fraud as part of an unlawful commercial enterprise. The primary objective of these professional crime rings is to target retailers across a geographical area or cyber network, stealing from these organizations for the purpose of turning products into financial gain, rather than for personal use.
ORC groups are commonly involved in sophisticated, well-planned shoplifting incidents, check and credit card schemes, manufacturing fraudulent receipts or price tickets, gift card scams, cargo theft incidents (where goods are stolen or hijacked during transit), and a host of other organized theft events. These criminal activities have become a nationwide problem occurring at an increasing scale, costing retail companies and consumers billions of dollars every year.
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The dramatic growth of organized retail crime and the unfettered resale of stolen and fraudulently obtained goods have caused significant concerns throughout the retail industry, and to the global economy as a whole. In addition to the tremendous losses incurred, the illegal income from the expanding theft and resale of stolen retail goods is believed to benefit those engaged in other forms of criminal activity, such as drug trafficking, violent crimes, gang activity, and even terrorism. Working in teams, these groups can move from store to store, and even city to city, wreaking havoc on the retail industry.
Many retailers have countered the ORC problem by adding organized retail crime investigators and task forces to their loss prevention program. ORC investigators will track the movement and patterns of the professional ORC groups, developing intelligence that can be given to law enforcement agencies. Investigations tend to focus on where the stolen items are going, as opposed to simply apprehending the store-level shoplifter. Investigators will work with multiple law enforcement jurisdictions or agencies in their attempts to shut down the entire criminal enterprise.