Recently, Sensormatic Solutions commissioned a study of ORC investigators and multi-store loss prevention managers across the United States with the Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC), Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF), and LPM. The goal was to better understand the causes, consequences, and control of ORC throughout the United States at the state level, and the results from the 187 participants more than delivered.
This report is the first-of-its-kind, state-level study of ORC.
Changes in ORC Activity
Of those surveyed throughout the states, 71.17% of respondents reported that ORC had increased in the areas they served over the past few years. No one said ORC had decreased, and 15.34% said it had stayed the same.
“These crimes aren’t just affecting retail, but other industries as well,” said Cory Lowe, senior research scientist for LPRC, in the webinar ‘ORC Across the States: Causes, Consequences, and the Criminal Justice System,’ produced by the LPF, Sensormatic, and the LPRC. “It depletes the economic base for a lot of areas. Although not as severe as store closure, reduced operating hours is influenced as well.”
The Contribution E-commerce Has on ORC
As e-commerce retail and online marketplaces have become more prevalent and popular, many of these sites have become key elements in the market for illegally obtained merchandise. It has also reduced the sophistication, complexity, and division of labor necessary for individuals and groups to engage in organized retail crime schemes.
For example, if individuals want to act as both boosters (i.e., those who steal items for resell) and fencers (i.e., those who resell stolen items), they can do so. There is no need to develop relationships with traditional fencers; in fact, there are benefits to reselling items oneself, rather than relying on a fence for many offenders.
Traditional fencers want to make a profit on the goods they sell, however, they also assume risks when reselling stolen merchandise. These factors and others affect the price fencers will pay boosters for merchandise. Individuals can avoid selling merchandise to fences at a reduced price by selling the products directly to consumers. This does incur greater risks for these individuals, but other research will have to determine the extent to which those who engage in ORC fence the products they sell and whether this is changing over time.
In the case of organized retail crime, resellers on online marketplaces must be controlled because they represent the “demand side” in the market for illegally obtained merchandise. However, ORC investigators, law enforcement, and prosecutors will need to focus their efforts on the online marketplaces that create the greatest problems for the retail industry.
Regional trends indicate which online marketplaces are used most often among online resellers in different areas. For example, investigators in the southeast may want to focus their investigations on platforms such as Craigslist and Facebook, while those on the west coast may want to focus on Offer Up.
The most problematic online marketplaces according to loss prevention professionals are Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Offer Up, Amazon, and Craigslist. ORC investigators, law enforcement, and prosecutors should continue to focus on removing illicit resellers from these sites because this is just as important as controlling product theft.
Approximately 50% of known crimes are not reported to law enforcement, which has serious effects on official crime statistics throughout the nation. If retailers want policymakers, law enforcement, and prosecutors to prioritize ORC, then we need more accurate crime statistics. This means that crimes need to be reported to law enforcement.
How Statistics Differ Throughout the States: Fear and General ORC
The study indicates that ORC is increasing throughout the United States, and the increase is greater in some states than others.
When asking respondents if they felt ORC has increased, stayed the same, or decreased in the past few years, 71.17% reported that ORC had increased.
Fear of crime problems throughout the nation is also an issue. A greater percentage of respondents reported that fear of crime was a major or moderate problem in many states in the Western United States, including Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and several others. Survey respondents throughout much of the country reported that retailers are taking a hands-off approach, primarily because they believe apprehensions are dangerous to guests and workers.
“When associates and shoppers are afraid to work or shop, that is as big a problem that I’ve heard of in retail over and above shrink or ORC,” said Ned McCauley, retail technology leader at Sensormatic Solutions, in the ‘ORC Across the States’ webinar. “This becomes more of a core issue for how retailers deal with their brand, and doing everything they can to keep shoppers and associates safe, because you don’t have a business without them.”
Retailers believe law enforcement and prosecutors have a tremendous role to play in controlling ORC. Retailers also recognize the important role they must play in controlling ORC; respondents nearly universally said that case preparation and documentation was very important when presenting cases to law enforcement and prosecutors. Respondents reported that law enforcement and prosecutors either do not understand the difference between ORC and shoplifting incidents, or they do not understand the differences in responding to or prosecuting ORC cases versus shoplifting incidents.
Results from the survey show 80.92% of the respondents who estimated that less than 80% of incidents are reported said it was because “police will not respond, investigate, and/or arrest.”
“There’s a blame game that goes on,” said Lowe in the ORC webinar. “That blame game doesn’t help anybody, especially when we know that retailers are doing a lot. I work with retailers on a regular basis; they’re committing more resources to a lot of things than they ever have, like security guards and other things. But this blame game happens between law enforcement and retail.”
Repeat offenders are a major challenge for many of the retailers, therefore, public policies and policing strategies that target repeat offenders might produce the greatest reductions in crimes against retailers.
Results also show that 50.45% of known incidents against organizations are reported to police in the areas employees serve.
What Do Retailers Focus On?
Retailers are focusing their resources on people, tools, and systems that enable them to gather intelligence about offenders and offenses, as well as some of the most extreme and costly approaches from the perspective of situational crime prevention.
Shifting their focus to safety has created a more hands-off atmosphere to prevent violence in the workplace.
Of those surveyed, 58.46% ranked “danger to workers” as the number one reason retailers have taken a hands-off approach in the areas they serve.
Many retailers continue to adapt to evolving ORC dynamics by changing their apprehension policies and placing greater emphasis on target hardening, intelligence-gathering, awareness, and investigations. All of these are critical in deterring the growing amount of organized retail crime.
To learn more about ORC across the states, download the full report at https://www.sensormatic.com/resources/rp/2022/orc-states-report.