If you’ve noticed more items under lock and key when you go shopping, not to mention increased prices, you’ve noticed the effects of organized retail crime. This type of theft involves coordinated gangs of thieves taking large amounts of goods for resale. Organized retail crime should clearly be treated as organized crime – yet, it isn’t.
Since the pandemic, organized retail crime has skyrocketed. The 26.5% surge has a significant cash value, with Target alone projected to lose $500 million in inventory this year. Those costs are passed on to law-abiding consumers through increased prices and lead to frequently stolen items being locked up, making them inconvenient to purchase as customers must wait for an employee to give them access.
More importantly, 80% of retailers have seen an increase in aggression or violence associated with incidents of organized retail crime. Retail workers feel increasingly unsafe, and some of them have been shot and killed while trying to do their job. In response, some stores have hired private security, but that is just another cost that is passed on to consumers.
These thefts are not for individual use. They are being orchestrated with the intention of these goods being resold to profit a larger group. And there is a distinct chain of command. First are the boosters, the people who go to stores and steal the merchandise. They pass the items on to fences, who resell the items either online or in physical locations. They report to the organizers who connect the individuals, determine what to steal, and ultimately run the operations.
There can also be others involved like drivers, lookouts,and those who can disable security systems. Moving up the chain, it is harder for law enforcement to catch, prosecute, and convict the individuals involved. It’s time for this to be treated more like other forms of organized crime, especially when considering the violence involved.
Fortunately, there is national legislation that is seeking to address organized retail crime. The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2023 fixes a lack of inter-agency coordination which allows the problem to be more expeditiously addressed by elevating the seriousness of the problem.
By empowering those who can help the most to take action, the bill reduces the burden on businesses and employers as well as the cost to consumers and families. Most importantly, it will help stop the theft by holding the organizers accountable rather than only catching the boosters who are quickly replaced.
Let’s hold the real criminals accountable and pass legislation that makes a difference.