Organized Retail Crime Up 17% In Last Five Years

While retailers continue to enact ID-checking policies to make sure you don’t walk out the door with something you didn’t pay for — and to prevent people from returning too many things for refunds — a growing number of retailers say they have become victims of large quantities of product being heisted by organized crooks.

In fact, according to a new National Retail Federation survey, 96% of retailers say they have been a victim of organized retail theft in the last year. That’s a record number, says the NRF, up from 95% in 2011 and way up from 79% only five years ago.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of surveyed retailers say they have seen an increase in this type of crime during the last year. That’s up for the third straight year in a row, though it is down from the 2009 peak of 73%.

“What this tells us is that as retailers and law enforcement become more aware of and more proactive in pursuing organized retail crime gangs, criminals have become more desperate and brazen in their efforts, stopping at nothing to get their hands on large quantities of merchandise,” said NRF Vice President of Loss Prevention, Rich Mellor. “Selling this stolen merchandise is a growing criminal enterprise and retailers must remain vigilant as this is an issue that involves everyone’s cooperation when it comes to protecting retailer’s assets, including their valued store associates and customers.”

Of course, the big story in recent months was the revelation that nogoodniks around the country are stealing large supplies of pricey Tide laundry detergent.

Retailers have more confidence that the authorities are aware of and understand the severity and complexity of organized retail crime (40.0% vs. 32.3% in 2011).

As for where in the supply chain these thefts are occurring, 68.1% of retailers say cargo theft occurs mostly during the trip from the distribution center to the store, while 43.5% say they are also seeing heists happen as product ships from the manufacturer to the distribution center, which is itself a site for about 15.9% of organized theft.

Geographically, the 10 metro areas with the largest concentrations of organized retail crime — Atlanta; Baltimore/Washington DC; Chicago; Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles/Orange County; New York City; Miami; Phoenix; San Francisco/Oakland — cover a wide range of regions from coast to coast.