On Thursday, July 14, the US Chamber of Commerce hosted a webinar, ‘Organized Retail Crime: Addressing the Rising Threat,’ that focused discussions on ORC trends, research, and responses.
Neil Bradley—the Chamber’s executive vice president, chief policy officer, and head of strategic advocacy—opened the virtual discussion by explaining how ORC affects every consumer in the United States, every day, and in every city.
“All across America, you turn on the local or national news and on most days, you’re likely to see a story about brazen robberies,” Bradley said. “In daylight, in the middle of the night, in mom-and-pop corner stores, bodegas in New York, pharmacy and national retail chains, and grocery stores. It has become a virtual epidemic across this country, and it impacts businesses and communities of all sizes.”
In response to the increased occurrences of theft and ORC for a variety of retailers, many stores in the recent past have been forced to close their doors. Aside from losing a business location, customers have lost a service and employees have lost their jobs, Bradley explained.
To further the discussion, Bradley invited Summer Stephan, the San Diego County district attorney, to join him. Stephan also serves as the vice president of the National District Attorney Association and was named one of the top five prosecutors in the US by the Manhattan Institute.
Stephan explained that San Diego County has seen a continuous increase in ORC throughout all sizes of retail stores. To determine ways to proactively fight ORC, she has determined the two primary motivators of offenders: money and profit. Though many individuals view money and profit as the same entity, the definition of profit in ORC has changed over the years. Now, profit can include—but is not limited to—money, drugs, services, and human trafficking.
“The profit has really become something expansive because of the increase in online marketplaces that allow stolen goods to be sold. So, this has really increased theft because of increased profit margins,” Stephan said.
Though the internet and other security technologies have increased efficiency in investigations, it has also allowed thieves and boosters to become more efficient. In response to increased ORC in online marketplaces, the Chamber has endorsed the Inform Act, which is currently pending in Congress. The Act will work to hold individuals accountable by applying the ‘age-old’ principles to innovative technology, Bradley said.
Stephan also focused on ways that businesses can adjust to a post-pandemic world with high theft thresholds and increased ORC. She advised individuals to prioritize the safety of their community while also building back trust that might have been lost over the past few years.
“Don’t give up,” she said. “Keep reporting. Unfortunately, some businesses gave up on reporting during the pandemic because the booking criteria—and everything else—had changed. Don’t give up. You deserve safety. You deserve law enforcement to respond and prosecutors to prosecute. Continue to report.”
Following Stephan’s advice, Shannon Penberthy, the vice president of Federal Government Affairs at CVS Health, was invited to continue the conversation from a retailer’s point of view. Penberthy kicked off her discussion by sharing that ORC happens approximately every three minutes in one of the 10,000 CVS locations across the country. She emphasized Stephan’s statement that ORC has become more brazen over the past few years and explained how this concerns retail employees.
Along with ensuring the safety and adequate training of all employees, Penberthy suggested that everyone should be educated on what exactly ORC is. She reminded attendees that ORC is not just one event in one store. It is a highly coordinated and highly criminal ongoing activity that thousands of participants are involved in at a nationwide level. By raising awareness, the retail industry can do a better job of being proactive in defense strategies and be more engaged with local chambers and retail associations.
“Once we are able to help others understand how all of the pieces fit together, individuals start to realize the importance of taking action at a local level,” Penberthy said. “It’s like building blocks where each time we get one piece of information, it leads us to lots of other places.”
Bradley concluded the webinar by agreeing with Stephan and Penberthy on the importance of working together as a country. Working with retailers, congress, and state legislatures as a community will create a stronger support system on the fight against ORC.