Report: Retail theft down slightly

The preliminary results of the National Retail Security Survey announced Tuesday at the National Retail Federation Loss Prevention Conference and Expo show that retail crime appears to be on a downward trend. Conducted annually by researchers at the University of Florida with the assistance of an ADT funding grant, the survey says that retailers lost more than $33 billion to theft in 2009, down from $36.5 billion in 2008.

In addition, losses due to employee theft and shoplifting remained the same in 2009 at $14.4 billion and $11.7 billion respectively. Employee theft remained the primary source of retail theft, accounting for 43 percent of total losses. Shoplifting was second at 35 percent.

Joe LaRocca, senior asset protection advisor for the NRF, said that the reduction could be attributed to an increase in loss prevention efforts by retailers.

"The decrease in the rate of theft is evidence of continued efforts by retailers to protect inventories and hold on to merchandise," he said in a statement. "This last year we have seen retailers working closer with law enforcement and really maximizing their investment in loss prevention."

Retailers are also using newer and more sophisticated security solutions including electronic article surveillance, video and software.

During an industry update held Tuesday morning at the conference, law enforcement officials praised retailer's loss prevention departments for the work they have done over the past couple of years in working with them to break up organized retail crime syndicates.

Ron Benson, supervisory analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation told the audience of LP professionals that they were on the "right track" when it came to ORC investigations and he urged them to continue working with law enforcement, as well as lawmakers to help stop the problem.

Kenneth Gusler, forensic auditor with the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Investigations said that his office is currently working on an ORC initiative in four cities, including Los Angeles, Miami, Houston and New York, which has yielded positive results thus far.

"Our role is to take your investigations and expand them to the next level," he said. "With your loss prevention skills and our investigative resources, we can identify these (ORC) organizations, seize their assets and make arrests."

Over the past year, Gusler said that ICE has conducted 24 ORC investigations through the new initiative, resulting in the arrests of 18 high-level individuals and the seizure of nearly $2.5 million in assets. Gusler added that there are several investigations ongoing that should result in additional arrests.