Organized retail crime is a relatively basic sort of theft at the root and a far cry from the complexity of computer hacking and cybersecurity breaching. And yet, two-thirds of merchants surveyed by NRF have reported a growth in organized retail crime over the end of the decade and that 97% of retailers had in some way suffered at the hands of organized retail crime. So, let's take a look at what the situation is.
What is Organized Retail Crime?
Organized retail crime (or ORC) is a blanket term that refers to professional shoplifting and stock theft within the retail world. "A single shoplifter, for as tricky and carefully planned as his tactics are, is not what we are talking about when we discuss ORC. Instead, it refers to teams of criminals who quite often will travel together between cities and stores, making steals on a whole range of different items," explains Jeff Hazlehurst. There will likely be a ring leader issuing instructions on which sort of items are carrying particular value in the resale game, as not everything you can steal from a retailer can then be effectively re-sold.
Why Is ORC A Particular Threat?
It's a strange concept that in 2020 we'd need to be on the look-out for what are primarily traditional thieves. Still, it's something about that slightly antiquated mode of crime that makes them a particularly prickly threat in the modern era. "The idea of products that companies intend to sell being vulnerable to being taken by someone is a concept that dates back thousands of years. And yet it is precisely that outdated sense that allows people to take the threat for granted", suggests Clara O'Neal. These units of criminals are not necessarily stealing high-value items, in fact, they may actually target the cheap stuff, but when you look back over a year and add up the damage, that's when merchants can start to realize how harmful the accumulative effects can be.
What Is Being Stolen?
ORC rings tend to have a varied focus, with great flexibility, depending on where they are and what is currently easy to sell. The traditional mix tends to consist of everyday household/personal items and then high-end designer stock. Household items include things like jeans, certain pharmaceuticals, diapers and baby formula, razors, some food items, and more.
An Opportunity Has Arisen
One of the big motivators for the rise in this sort of crime is the change to legislation that has occurred across several states over the last couple of years. The bar above which a crime is considered a felony has risen, which has given ORC rings an opportunity to take risks that don't even necessarily have dire consequences in terms of prison time. Of all modern crime, the risk of being caught is relatively high, but the punishment is now lower than before.
According to the NRF report, "Stolen merchandise is sometimes returned for store credit, usually in the form of gift cards. Those cards can then be sold for cash, and 51 percent of retailers had found them for sale on websites while 17 percent found them in pawnshops." The ability to make easy profit gives fraudsters the motivation to commit ORC.
So, it's looking likely that ORC will keep increasing, and retailers will still suffer at the hands of criminals. However, it is also likely that a threshold will be reached that will trigger some noticeable changes in the legal consequences of ORC activity that may help to curb the problem.