Organized Retail Crime Increasing in the United States

In the past year, organized retail crime has victimized 92 percent of retailers across the country, with Los Angeles taking the No. 2 spot, according to a recent survey released by the Washington, D.C.–based National Retail Federation.

Retail theft has increased by 7 percent over last year. Losses averaged $777,877 per $1 billion in sales this year compared with $726,351 in losses last year.

Some 71 percent of retailers said that this kind of crime is increasing. Items often center around easily stolen goods such as razors, deodorant and laundry detergent and scale up to higher-priced items such as designer clothing, blue jeans, handbags, smart phones and gift cards.

About 60 percent of merchandise stolen is recovered at places such as pawn shops and flea markets or websites where the goods are being sold online, according to the survey. Stolen gift cards have been recovered at online gift-card exchanges.

Organized retail crime is defined as more than two people illegally obtaining retail merchandise through theft or fraud, according to Loss Prevention Media. While this type of crime has been going on for as long as there have been stores, the thieves’ sophistication has been growing, said Bob Moraca, the NRF’s vice president of loss prevention.

“These criminals find new ways to expand their networks and manipulate the retail supply chain every day. The retail industry is fighting this battle by upgrading technology, improving relationships with local law enforcement and taking steps such as tightening return policies, but it is a never-ending battle,” Moraca said.

Return fraud is also a target for organized retail crime. Retailers surveyed said that 11 percent of their sales will be returned this year but 8 percent of those items will be fraudulent.

The survey ranked the top 10 regions for organized retail crime in America. Coming in at No. 1 was New York followed by Los Angeles and Miami; Chicago and Houston tied for fourth place. San Francisco/Oakland was fifth, followed by Atlanta; Baltimore; and Orlando, Fla. Northern New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Philadelphia and the Dallas area tied for ninth place. Tied for No. 10 on the list were Seattle and Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.