Organized retail crime prevention recently took on an international flavor when Tyco Retail Solutions hosted the International Organized Retail Crime Summit 2015 at their Boca Raton, Florida, campus in late October. LP Magazine was there to report on the event, which offered a unique opportunity for retail loss prevention, law enforcement, academia, and technology solution providers from the US and Japan to meet and collaborate face-to-face on the growing concern of organized retail crime (ORC).
Recognizing the impact and magnitude of this global problem, the two-day summit was attended by some of the industry’s top subject-matter experts from both countries. The event featured an open, interactive format where attendees had the opportunity to learn and share information regarding the latest approaches being employed to combat ORC.
Different than traditional forms of shoplifting, organized retail crime encompasses large-scale retail theft and other fraudulent activity primarily involving incidents where stolen goods are converted into cash. Yet even more troubling is the role that ORC plays as a “gateway crime” with incidents increasingly linked to even more serious issues such as violent crimes, drugs and drug trafficking, identity theft, money laundering, cybercrimes, and even financing terror groups. While the global figure is unknown, industry experts estimate the cost of organized retail crime at about $30 to $40 billion annually the US alone.
Market Updates on Organized Retail Crime
Monday’s events began with a US market update on ORC hosted by Paul Jones, LPC. Jones, eBay’s executive director of global asset protection, offered unique insights on ORC challenges facing both brick-and-mortar and online retailers based on his experience in both formats.
ORC once depended largely on black-market operations and physical locations such as flea markets and other illicit brick-and-mortar locations to sell stolen goods. Now, ORC operations are increasingly turning to online marketplaces as an easier, broader reaching, and more profitable way to sell stolen merchandise.
According to Jones, maintaining trust is a key element in the eBay business model. Stolen goods create an unfair and untrustworthy market place for buyers and sellers. He outlined initiatives within his company for identifying and shutting down resale of stolen merchandise. “To confront the challenges related to organized retail theft and the sale of stolen goods, we all must remain vigilant and leverage an ORC ecosystem of strong strategic partnerships. Our dedicated global teams are focused on enforcing policies, ensuring we have the right technology in place, collaborating with rights owners and working closely with law enforcement to combat ORC,” said Jones.
“The best response to organized retail crime is to implement best-in-class solutions. At the store level, this would include CCTV cameras, analytics, EAS tagging standards, and other tools matched with customer traffic and sales information. These efforts complemented with good customer service offer our best chance at deterring ORC. As it relates to online solutions, it’s critical to know and understand the habits of your customers that shop online as well as you know the customers in your stores; and synchronize and analyze that data,” he emphasized. Every solution requires teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation.
Dave DiSilva with eBay discussed the role that online retailing has taken in combating ORC. DiSilva discussed research and detection methodology, the eBay PROACT team, as well as several examples of the cooperative relationships that eBay has developed with retail organizations and law enforcement agencies to successfully support efforts to mitigate organized retail crime.
ORC Issues in Japan
A market update reviewing ORC issues in Japan was also presented by Yoshinori Inamoto with the National Shoplifting Prevention Organization (NSPO), a nonprofit organization comprised of major Japanese retail businesses dedicated to combating organized retail crime and other retail theft issues in Japan.
Many of the ORC issues occurring in Japan that were discussed by Inamoto were very similar to ORC incidents occurring here in the states. Gang activity, booster operations, illicit websites, and online auctions involving stolen goods are just some of the ORC operations currently active and causing significant retail losses in Japan. As these concerns continue to grow, property crimes involving retail theft have climbed steadily across the country with reported shoplifting cases now eclipsing 10 percent of all reported penal code offenses.
Throughout the course of the summit the delegates from Japan gathered insights from US subject matter experts to further support their ongoing efforts to tackle the rising threat of organized retail crime in Japan.
Keeping pace with the ongoing changes in retail is a critical aspect of the evolution of the loss prevention industry. This requires a commitment to growth and innovation in all areas of the profession whether it involves learning new skills, accepting new roles and responsibilities, modifying our approach to the business, or exploring new and creative solutions.
With increasing support to fight ORC issues, a growing number of retail companies are allocating additional resources to help fight organized retail crime, with many looking to add or enhance innovative new technology solutions. This ongoing loss prevention industry trend was also addressed as part of the summit and supported by the host of the event.
A behind-the-scenes site tour of the Tyco Retail Experience Center included a closer look at some of the latest in technologies and product enhancements to address ORC issues. The tour showcased tagging solutions, dual-technology detection platform, metal foil and jammer detection sensors, and RFID as EAS solutions. Tyco’s wide range of advanced IP video surveillance solutions include public view monitors (PVMs) and video analytics to help monitor and capture ORC activities, while providing law enforcement evidence for potential prosecution. These solutions enable retailers to be alerted to possible suspicious activities such as a shelf-sweep event or crowd formation, and to receive point-of-sale analytics on potential internal theft. Facial recognition is one of the latest solutions offering retailers the ability to be alerted when possible known offenders come into their stores.
The Power of Collaboration
One of the most powerful sessions of the event involved a “retailer collaboration” presentation by Brendan Dugan with Walgreens and Terrence Mullen with CVS. Featuring a discussion on the importance of cooperative efforts in the battle against organized retail crime, Dugan and Mullen elaborated on joint efforts involving multiple ORC investigations between the retailers that have successfully resolved several multi-million dollar cases. The presentation clearly demonstrated the power of collaboration and the results that can be achieved by working together.
A related discussion on “Active Involvement of Local, State, and Federal Law Enforcement” was shared by Scott Campbell with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Rich Rossman of the Broward County Sherriff’s Office. This presentation offered highlights on the importance of developing strong partnerships with law enforcement partners and the results that we can reach and build upon when we work together.
The final session of the event was a presentation by Dr. Read Hayes, director of the Loss Prevention Research Council and research scientist at the University of Florida. Dr. Hayes presented his results on how to identify and prevent ORC by affecting offender decisions through deterrence methods. “All crime starts with offenders making a decision to weigh the risks and benefits. Our research on the science of deterrence reveals offenders recognize and respond to cue mechanisms, which are technologies such as video surveillance cameras, enhanced public-view monitors (PVMs), and electronic tags, that clearly signal a crime is too difficult, too risky, or not worth it.”This discussion once again underscored the importance of applying research and analytics in efforts to find effective solutions.
The importance of working together to reach productive and successful results in the battle against organized retail crimewhether those partnerships are between retail organizations, law enforcement, solution providers, academia, or between nationswas an overriding theme for the entire event. Organized retail crime may be an international concern, but some of our best solutions may be found when we forge international cooperation.