ORCAs in Action: A Testament to Cooperation and Teamwork

In response to the scope and severity of organized retail crime (ORC) concerns across the country, the number of organized retail crime associations (ORCAs) has grown steadily in recent years, with a primary emphasis on assisting law enforcement, retail investigators, and prosecutors with the identification, investigation, and prosecution of those involved in organized retail crime. Retailers and law enforcement agencies have increased efforts to share information regarding organized retail crime, and these associations have helped provide that vehicle by opening doors to improve legislation, enhance investigations, and build cooperative relationships in the battle against the ORC pandemic.

In recognition of the various ORCAs across the US, the national impact that these collaborations are having on the fight against organized retail crime, and in appreciation and support of these efforts, LPM has been involved in an exciting new series of programs and events to promote and further the mission of these vital organizations. ORCAs in Action is an initiative designed to support local and regional ORC efforts driven by these vital organizations. The primary objective of the program is to:

  • Help drive membership
  • Promote the ORCA organizations, missions, and successes
  • Bring awareness to ORCA efforts and challenges to help develop and deliver solutions
  • Facilitate ORCA thought leadership and networking

The Plight of ORC

Organized retail crime and the dramatic growth of ORC incidents have drawn significant attention both within the loss prevention industry and throughout the retail community in general as businesses search for ways to manage the threats and address the issues. Whether dealing directly with professional shoplifters or otherwise battling the related fencing operations, cargo theft incidents, Internet crimes, or other associated offenses, tremendous effort and resources are being waged against those associated with these sophisticated criminal networks.

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According to the most recent annual ORC study released by the National Retail Federation (NRF), retailers are reporting:

  • Increased Activity. 75 percent of loss prevention executives surveyed indicated that ORC incidents have increased over the past year.
  • Higher Losses. 64 percent of retailers surveyed reported an increase in average ORC case values.
  • Higher Priority on the Problem. 61 percent of retailers revealed their companies are prioritizing ORC more than they were five years ago, 52 percent reported allocating more technology to reducing risks such as ORC-related thefts, and 36 percent reported increasing loss prevention budgets.
  • Greater Need for Law Enforcement Support. Only 64 percent of those surveyed say they were satisfied with help received from local police (down from 84% last year), 55 percent with state authorities (down from 75%), and 50 percent with federal agents (down from 69%).
  • Need for ORC Legislation. Those surveyed strongly believe a federal law is needed to influence response to major ORC problems. There has been no signification legislative action against organized retail crime in Congress for more than a decade.
Mark Mathews
Mark Mathews

“Retailers are seeing more cases and higher losses as organized crime continues to target stores, warehouses, and cargo,” said Mark Mathews, vice president for research, development, and industry analysis with the NRF. “Retailers are investing millions to fight these crimes, but they need more help from law enforcement, and most of all, they need tougher laws that recognize the difference between petty shoplifting and professional crime for profit.

In response to the growing problem, retailers have increased training, developed additional controls, enhanced policies, and established dedicated task forces to specifically deal with ORC issues. Industry associations have also invested significant resources to combat organized retail crime efforts through education, awareness, and political channels. Further, fusion centers have been launched at retail conferences to encourage interaction and relationship building between loss prevention teams and various law enforcement agencies. All these steps are vitally important, providing needed venues for the development of industry professionals and a voice for growth and change.

Still, it is essential to offer a clear venue for the development of communication and partnership between law enforcement, prosecutors, government officials, local communities, and loss prevention in the field. This is where the role of the ORCAs becomes crystal clear.

“Being actively involved with an ORCA is a great way to create valuable partnerships, learn, share information, and solve ORC investigations,” said Ken Spurling, president of the New England Organized Retail Crime Alliance (NEORCA). “We have seen this firsthand across the New England area, where NEORCA has been a vital resource for loss prevention and law enforcement professionals for the greater part of the past decade.”

ORCAs Are in the Business of Partnerships

Organized retail crime associations have been established nationwide with the purpose of developing these partnerships. The success of the ORCAs is measured by the ability to provide cooperation, communication, and force multiplication for ORCA members. The ORCAs, and the partnerships that they create and foster, have been a driving force in the identification, investigation, and prosecution of organized retail crime cases across the country, resulting in recoveries totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. The connections made through networking, regional meetings, seminars, and conferences have exponentially strengthened relationships and resulted in countless criminal cases.

Curt Crum
Curt Crum

“These partnerships can really make a difference,” said Curt Crum, former director with the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR) and retired special services manager with Boise Police Department, Criminal Investigations Division. “It can lead to that synergy where the total is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s the type of synergy where you’re able to do a lot more if you’re willing to work together. Pulling our resources and our intel together works to everyone’s advantage. I’ve seen it work. And in the midst of working those cases, we’ve been able to resolve many other crimes due to our work on these ORC investigations.”

Crum continued, “Organized retail crime is a community concern, and we need to work together. The organized retail crime associations create the hub of the wheel. You’ve got one central location where people are putting together information for the benefit of all. Because these same groups will hit many different retailers, we’re often able to consolidate data and build a bank of details that really helps nail down critical information on those involved. It allows us to start connecting the dots.”

ORCAs Come in All Shapes and Sizes

Organized retail crime associations have been founded across the country to support these critical objectives. Some are well established with large memberships, seasoned leadership, and focused agendas. Others are still in their infancy, with ambitious goals and motivated leaders trying to set a positive tone and a strong message. Some areas of the country are still in need of intelligent, ambitious leaders to build programs and drive success.

ORCAs might have their foundation with law enforcement teams, retail associations, loss prevention professionals, and even district attorney’s offices. Many may represent a particular state, but some may cover smaller regions or larger territories. Some are doing very well, holding regular meetings and annual conferences with both networking and educational agendas. Others have struggled to maintain their efforts under the strains of the past year and the impact on both retailers and law enforcement agencies.

Yet what remains consistent is that they all need our support. These associations exist to build collaborative teams and solve crimes in the interest of the greater good. While some may talk of the importance of partnerships, communication, and cooperation, the entire vision of each of these ORCAs is to deliver on that concept. Tremendous success in terms of investigations, productivity, and partnerships has been realized in each and every one of these associations, and we should all share a common goal to keep that agenda moving forward and in the right direction.

ORCAs in Action

The ORCAs in Action initiative was established to provide a conduit for our nation’s organized retail crime associations, working together for mutual benefit and support. While respecting the value and independence of the individual associations and understanding the unique qualities that each brings to the communities they serve, we also see the strength in working together to meet common objectives.

Working together, we can address bigger issues. We can help organize and develop existing teams. We can expand the reach of ongoing investigations. We can offer advice and mentorship when facing unique challenges or common concerns. We can share ideas on improving everything from infrastructure to membership drives. We can consolidate to strengthen networking and educational opportunities. We can unite to drive collective agendas and initiatives, improving productivity and building on shared success.

Program itinerary for leadership meetings is determined solely by the wants and needs of the ORCAs. Meeting regularly with the leadership of every ORCA, every leadership team is given an equal voice in both the discussions and the decisions that result. We can then use that information to support everyone and every mission associated with the ORCA teams.

Our first meeting in August was held with leadership of all active ORCAs to discuss the best possible ways that the LP community could support these associations and their important missions. This robust and enthusiastic meeting put in motion a series of steps that mark the beginning of the initiative.

Thus far, ORCAs in Action has created a national resource guide to help ORCA leaders better communicate with each other for networking and information sharing. Exclusive to ORCA leaders, this has already paid substantial dividends in terms of networking, investigative successes, and team building.

We’ve hosted a highly productive technology summit, bringing together solution providers and ORCA leadership to support their data-sharing needs. The enthusiastic support and tremendous product offerings provided by these solution providers has helped solve several pressing needs while improving network security, communication needs, and financial concerns. We offer our gratitude to all who participated and for the generosity and support they’ve offered to our nation’s ORCAs.

We’ve invited each ORCA to record podcasts through the LPM Media Group that will be made available both on LPM and ORCA websites to further describe the mission and goals of each ORCA, their foundational stories, and how to get further involved. We’ve encouraged ORCA members to author relevant articles regarding relevant topics, resolved investigations, and other appropriately approved content to support the mission and vision of the ORCA goals and objectives. This will be done in partnership with retailers and public agencies to protect the best interests of investigations and all those involved. Look for these articles as they are made available through LPM resources.

At the LPM annual meeting, ORCA leaders hosted a roundtable discussion and presented insights on ORC success stories to top loss prevention leadership from across the industry. This was followed by a presentation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Major Theft Unit on cooperative efforts to address major thefts and organized retail crime.

Additional projects are in the works, and planning and support meetings are currently being scheduled to further support the mission of the ORCAs, focused on ways that the ORCAs can further support one another through organizational strategies, educational opportunities, raising awareness, mentorship, membership, and networking.

In early December 2020, LPM hosted the first ORCAs in Action Conference, one of the most productive and highly attended virtual events of the year for the loss prevention industry. The presentations at the conference are available on video on the magazine website. 

A Call to Action

The ORCAs in Action initiative is off to a great start, but there’s still a great deal that we can accomplish. The cooperation and enthusiasm that has followed these efforts has been expressed both within the ORCAs and by all those who have been involved in the projects tackled thus far. However, we feel that this is just the beginning. We would still like you to get involved.

While every ORCA has remarkable individuals as part of the team, there remains an ongoing need to inject talent and leadership into every organized retail crime association. These networks are founded with passionate and capable individuals coming together to support a common cause. However, there is always room for additional talent—and that includes you. Among all of those involved in the fight against organized retail crime, there are gifted individuals who can add value, and we are inviting you to show what you have to offer.

Many different hurdles impact a company’s bottom line, and as business professionals, loss prevention leaders must consider every influence that affects the profitability of the organization. We can all agree that addressing growing concerns by working together can benefit our teams, employees, customers, companies, and communities. Whether sharing resources, information, ideas, or advice, both individuals and organizations can offer a tremendous amount to support these critically important associations.

To contact the ORCA that supports your community, check out “Organized Retail Crime Associations: The Complete List.” 

If you have additional questions and want to learn more about the ORCAs in Action initiative and how you can get involved, feel free to contact Jac Brittain at jacb@lpportal.com or Kevin McMenimen at kevinm@lpportal.com.

Take the next step. Your support and participation can make a difference.

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