Compliance Scorecard: More on Organized Retail Crime Legislation

Normally we use this column to focus on standards, guidelines, laws and regulations with which security programs must or should comply. This month, however, we wanted to highlight some proposed legislation that, instead of setting down performance guidelines, could tamp down a problem that has hampered retail security and loss prevention operations nationwide.

On Feb. 25, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives saw three pieces of legislation introduced with a common goal: to curb the growing threat of organized retail crime (ORC). The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009 (S.470), the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009 (H.R.1173), and the E-Fencing Enforcement Act of 2009 (H.R.1166) resemble legislation put forth in 2008 for consideration by the 110th Congress. The National Retail Federation and other retail trade groups have expressed their support of the measures.

Together, these three Acts seek to formally recognize organized retail crime as dangerous not only to consumers and retailers but to the national banking system. They recommend elevating it to a federal crime and amending the U.S. Federal Sentencing Guidelines to consider the serious nature of the ORC offenses. Each measure also addresses the responsibilities and liabilities of online sales and auction sites, through which ORC rings often sell their stolen goods, putting more of the burden of investigation and mitigation on them.

The opening of H.R.1173 cites organized retail crime as a “$30 billion annual problem,” a figure that many consider conservative. Despite its huge impact, retailers have often felt their hands tied in combating ORC. When potentially stolen product appears at high volume on an online auction site, that site currently has little obligation to question the source. What’s more, there is evidence that the rate of organized retail theft is rapidly increasing as the U.S. economy tumbles. People who are struggling to pay bills are more willing to participate in thefts, and other people trying to budget more carefully are snapping up deals and discounts from online sites that may be selling stolen merchandise, providing a perfect pairing of supply and demand.

Retailers who wish to speak out on ORC should contact their Senators and Representatives to express their opinions on these three Acts. All three are currently in committee.

Marleah Blades is senior editor for the Security Executive Council (SEC). The Security Executive Council maintains a large and growing list of laws, regulations, standards and guidelines that impact security ( Help the Council fill out the list and receive a selected complimentary metric slide from our store.