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Homeland Security Joins Retailers in Concern over Organized Retail Crime

A study released yesterday by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the Buy Safe America Coalition sounds the alarm on the increasingly brazen and violent theft occurring in retail stores across the nation. Following publication, Department of Homeland Security officials affirmed the dangers of organized retail crime, linking criminal syndicates to more dangerous activities impacting local communities.

“Organized retail crime is leading to more brazen and more violent attacks in retail stores throughout the country. Many of the criminal rings orchestrating these thefts are also involved in other serious criminal activity such as human trafficking, narcotics trafficking, weapon trafficking, and more. Tackling this growing threat is important to the safety of store employees, customers, and communities across the country,” said Steve Francis, Executive Associate Director with Homeland Security Investigations.

Among the study’s findings:

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  • As much as $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers in 2019 (pre-COVID).
  • Nearly 67% of asset protection managers at leading retailers surveyed report a moderate to considerable increase in organized retail crime, while 80% believe it will only get worse in the future.
  • 86.2% of retailers surveyed said a ORC subject has verbally threatened an associate; 75.9% said an ORC subject has physically assaulted an associate, 41% said an ORC subject has used a weapon to harm an associate.

“Organized retail crime is more than petty shoplifting, and the economic impact has become alarming,” said Michael Hanson, Senior Executive Vice President of Public Affairs for RILA. “Professional thieves and organized criminal rings are building a business model by stealing and reselling products, increasingly online thru marketplace platforms like Amazon or Facebook.”

“The lack of transparency online has made it easy to hide behind a screen name and fake business information to peddle stolen products,” added Hanson. “Washington needs to establish a base level of transparency on e-commerce platforms to make it harder for criminal enterprises to operate in the shadows of the Internet.”

Read the full study.

RILA and the Buy Safe America Coalition continue to lead efforts to address the growing problem of stolen merchandise sold online by urging Congress to pass the INFORM Consumers Act. This bipartisan measure would modernize consumer protection laws and require online marketplaces to collect and verify basic business information from sellers, making it difficult for retail theft rings to peddle stolen goods on leading e-commerce platforms.

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