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GROC’s 12th Annual Retail Crime Conference Hits It Out of the Park

Last week, the Georgia Retailers Organized Crime Alliance (GROC) hosted its 12th Annual Retail Crime Conference in Atlanta. After two years of virtual meetings, this was the largest conference to date with a crowd of over 400. Attendees represented 87 retail brands, 44 law enforcement agencies, and 21 solutions partners.

Conference goers emerged on the Cobb Galleria Centre on Thursday, August 18 for a full day of education and networking with a lineup of speakers that was arguably the best yet.

Georgia Senator John Albers, the sponsor of Georgia’s SB 332, known as the Inform Consumers Act, welcomed attendees and kicked off the conference by recognizing Georgia’s law enforcement officers and first responders. Senator Albers vowed his commitment to continue the fight against ORC, street gangs, and criminal activity in the state of Georgia.

Susan Treadaway, chief assistant district attorney for Georgia’s Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit used her experience in retail and prosecution to illustrate the importance of maximizing relationships and expanding your network to build cases. Treadway provided attendees with actionable and applicable insights and information to hold ORC perpetrators accountable.

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In addition to the 2021 World Series Title, Georgia is proudly home to one of the strongest RICO statues in the nation. Georgia Bureau of Investigation Assistant Director John Melvin provided an in-depth explanation of the state’s RICO statute and a comprehensive how-to on building a successful RICO case. Melvin also held a session on Georgia’s street gangs, providing attendees with an overview of the steps the state has taken and the tools available to enable law enforcement and prosecutors to take down these criminal organizations who lend heavily to the growing ORC problem.

Retail is evolving, criminal trends are changing, and so is the world of investigative interviewing. Dave Thompson, CFI, president of Wicklander-Zulawski and Associates, spoke on abandoning routine and focusing on research, adaptability, and strategy in conducting an investigative interview. Thompson explained emerging legislation impacting the world of interviewing, best practices, debunking old interviewing methodologies, and sharpening the skills needed to conduct efficient and successful interviews.

When in Braves Territory, the closer is critical, and George Piro did not disappoint. Piro, who recently retired as the special agent in charge over the FBI Miami Field Office, shared his story of eliciting a successful confession from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Piro recounted his personal experience of spending hours each day with Hussein over the course of seven months and stressed the criticality of planning, preparation, and strategizing to achieve desired outcomes—which in this case led to the sharing of critical intelligence.

There were also a few ceremonial items on the agenda. Sgt. Herndon of the DeKalb County Police Department was presented with the 2022 Law Enforcement Partner of the Year Award in recognition of his outstanding service, commitment, and partnership in the fight against ORC. Tym Conklin, senior manager of ORC investigations at Macy’s, presented the award to Herndon.

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Additionally, two Kennesaw State University criminal justice students—Mya Matthews and Mark Eister—were awarded the annual GROC Scholarship. The scholarships were presented by GROC Chairman Chad McManus, senior manager of asset protection for T-Mobile, and James McCafferty, Ph.D., associate professor of criminal justice at Kennesaw State University.

This year’s conference raised over $2,000 for the Community Teen Coalition (CTC), an organization focused on empowering at-risk youth through mentorship, entrepreneurial education, and resources to help achieve social and academic success.

Planning is already under way for 2023, and its only going to get bigger!

Shelby Dotson

Shelby Dotson is the vice president of member relations for the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) as well as its sister organization, the Georgia Retailers. In her role, Dotson focuses on strategic growth of the association’s membership, communications, and project management. Most recently, she worked with the Florida Attorney General’s Office to launch the Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange (FORCE), a statewide intelligence sharing platform to combat organized retail crime.

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