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.


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  1. bikeoid says:

    That’s probably where all the ridiculously low priced new items sold on Amazon come from.

    • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

      And flea markets. And eBay. And even used CD/DVD stores.

      • econobiker says:

        I used to see lots of razor blade refills for sale in the flea markets back in the late 1970s/early 1980s. As this was prior to my beard growing days I never understood it. I then learned about it when I worked at a grocery store in the late 1980s and the boosters would clean out the razor refill sections.

        And this was before Ebay etc…

    • Velvet Jones says:

      Yeah, I’m starting to think the same thing. A few months ago I bought a 3 dose pack of Frontline Plus on Amazon for $35. It is normally around $60 in the store. I went in to the local Petsmart last week to buy more, all of the Frontline products are now in anti-theft boxes, the kind they use on video games and other expensive and often stolen products. My guess is that there isn’t a large number of people stealing flee medicine for their dogs. More likely pro shoplifters who run Amazon side businesses.

      • sparrowmint says:

        I doubt it. You’re just getting hosed on the price at Petsmart. 3 month packs of Frontline Plus at Costco are only $35.

      • scoosdad says:

        Usually the lower cost but name-branded flea and tick products available online come from overseas sources, primarily European. Check the packaging carefully. There are usually subtle giveaways like the location of manufacture being a country in Europe, and perhaps UK-specific spellings of certain English words (‘colour’, ‘behaviour’, etc.). And in a lot of cases it’s sold beyond the expiration date.

        You’ll usually know if an online source is selling authorized products because they make a big deal about saying so in the ads. They hate the gray market competition.

  2. Cat says:

    I experience an increase in “organized retail crime” every time I go shopping.

    • voogru says:

      then dont go shopping

      • ripoffnation says:

        Whether I shop or not is immaterial. In fact I shop to help the business. Businesses that commit organized retail crime when I shop must be legally punished.

  3. regis-s says:

    I thought it was going to be a story about retailers ripping customers off.

  4. Blueskylaw says:

    “Organized Retail Crime Up 17% In Last Five Years”

    Is this another story on JC Penney pricing schemes?

  5. jsl4980 says:

    [Citation needed]

    The NRF created a survey, so that shows how many large retailers think they’ve been the victims of organized crime. What proof is there that these thefts are from organized crime versus a terrible economy and more people being desperate and shoplifting?

    • Blueskylaw says:

      Good catch. Sounds like retailers are creating their own crisis in order
      to have a good excuse to raise prices due to “curent economic conditions”.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      Yeah this article is truly horrible. I think the 17% number comes from the number of retailers who claim to have been victims, not the number of total incidents. Turrible math.

    • Peggee has pearls and will clutch them when cashiers ask "YOU GOT A WIC CHECK MA'AM?" says:

      True, what a store thinks and what really happened aren’t necessarily the same. Not to mention “organized” is subjective. One of my jobs is a chain retailer where we’ve heard of (but never seen at our store) a group of people who come in with fake IDs and several $30-$40 items without a receipt and try to get a gift card. They’re not very smart, since they’ll enter as a group and leave as a group but try to act like they don’t know each other in line, and they’ll hand over their ID first thing instead of acting like they’ve never tried to return something w/o a receipt before. So, it’s hardly a well-oiled machine, but the district manager probably would have called it organized theft if asked.

  6. sirwired says:

    Or… there is an increase in retailers either knowing about it and/or admitting it.

  7. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This is why we need better regulations against retailers in how they define sales so as not to be so deceptive to consumers. That, and re-enforce monopoly laws against retailers so they can’t engage in price fixing.

    Wait, this is about crimes against retailers? My bad.

  8. ace says:

    Might this have something to do with an opportunity for theft introduced at these new self checkout lanes that reduce the company’s expenditure on paying minimum wage to cashiers?

  9. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Well, if you try to stop them from stealing they f*cking die on you!

  10. Lucky225 says:

    “68.1% of retailers say cargo theft occurs mostly during the trip from the distribution center to the store”

    Yeah receipt checking customers who paid for the product after it arrived to the store makes a hell of a lot of sense *rolls eyes*

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      A significant percentage of theft that happens once the product is in the store is done by someone who is working with a cashier, and that’s the kind of theft that receipt checking is intended to combat. Regardless of whether it’s right or wrong to demand a receipt, your logic is just plain stupid. Should they only attempt to stop the most popular type of theft?

      • frank64 says:

        Yeah, that there is another way to steal means that other preventive methods should just be ignored. I have seen that leap in logic used quite a bit here.

  11. bosozoku says:

    Where does the RIAA & MPAA stand on this piracy?!?

  12. u1itn0w2day says:

    I guessing they’re just better at catching the theifs and realizing they’ve been hit by organized rings. Retail theft might be up in correlation to economic conditions but are probably the result of repeat offenders. I’m sure the security departments of these stores are now using computerized data and communication on a grand scale at this point.

  13. smo0 says:

    “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 —”

    Race issues in 3….2…..1….