Organized retail crime legislation reintroduced in Congress

Several pieces of legislation introduced last year that aim to help authorities curb incidents of organized retail crime have been reintroduced in Congress this week.

The bills, the Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009 (HR 1173), the E-Fencing Enforcement Act of 2009 (HR 1166) and the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009 (S. 470), would make organized retail crime a federal offense.

Organized retail crime (ORC), sometimes also called organized retail theft, typically involves crime rings that steal on demand. Those crime rings work as groups for store theft, and a typical ORC ring will steal mass quantities of merchandise with plans to resell that merchandise to unwitting individuals and often independent retailers.

According to Joe LaRocca, vice president of loss prevention for the National Retail Federation, the bills are essentially the same ones that were introduced in September with the exception of the Senate bill in which there were some minor tweaks as it relates to online marketplaces.

LaRocca said that what qualifies as online marketplace changed in the Senate version of the legislation from $250,000 in revenue garnered from online transactions to a Web site that hosts 1,000 or more transactions. He also said that time requirement by an online marketplace to report suspicious activity was condensed.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, organized theft costs the retail industry between $30 billion and $37 billion each year.

"Given the history of organized retail crime, the significant dollars lost by companies… (the NRF) obviously supports this legislation and feels that it will help to deter some of these crimes from taking place, but also give law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office the ability to go after offenders and prosecute them under federal law," LaRocca said.

Due to the election and a combination of other pressing issues faced by Congress last year, LaRocca said that the ORC legislation was placed on the back burner, but he indicated that he doesn’t anticipate that happening this go around.

"The opportunity with the full year to work with both the House and Senate on these bills gives us a good opportunity to put them into final form, hold some additional hearings and possibly have them passed this year," he added.