According to the National Retail Federation's eighth annual Organized Retail Crime Survey, 96 percent of the 125 retail companies surveyed said that they had been the victim of an organized retail crime (ORC) in the past year, up from 94.5 percent the previous year.
In addition, more than 87 percent of respondents reported that ORC in the U.S. has grown over the past three years.
Though these survey responses may be discouraging, more retailers now believe that law enforcement is aware of the problem and understand the impact that ORC is having on their businesses with 40 percent of respondents expressing this belief, compared to 32.3 percent in 2011. And more than half of those surveyed (54.4 percent) said that upper management at their company was aware of the ORC issue.
"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."
Another growing problem for retailers, according to the survey, is the issue of cargo theft, which continues to steadily rise. More than 52 percent of those surveyed reported that they had been a victim of cargo theft in the past 12 months, up from 49.6 percent in 2011. Organized retail crime gangs are also becoming increasing violent. Fifteen percent of retailers in the survey said that apprehensions lead to some level of violence, up from 13 percent last year.
Retailers also reported several new ORC trends in this year’s survey including digital receipt fraud, increased "smash and grab" incidents and collusion with street gangs.
"Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organized retail crime, sophisticated criminals with unending opportunities and anonymous outlets to sell their stolen merchandise are proving to be quite challenging for both retailers and law enforcement agencies working to combat this issue," said NRF Senior Asset Protection Advisor Joe LaRocca. "With the types of organized retail crimes changing in severity and scope every day, and cargo theft and violent instances becoming more troubling, retailers are constantly on high alert."
The NRF says that federal legislation still needs to be passed if lawmakers ever truly want to put a significant dent in the problem.
"For years, retailers and other vested parties have worked together to tackle organized retail crime. These partnerships include regional groups and associations who host meetings to share intelligence and work with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Even with the success of these partnerships organized retail crime remains a Federal issue because it crosses state lines. NRF strongly believes that organized retail crime must be addressed through Federal legislation, by amending the Federal Criminal Code to effectively address the organized and serious nature of this issue and, be properly defined as a federal crime with appropriate sentencing guidelines as well as providing Federal law enforcement the resources needed to combat this crime," the NRF wrote in a statement.
Among the top 10 U.S. cities for ORC include:
- Baltimore/Washington, D.C.
- Los Angeles/Orange County, Calif.
- New York/Northern N.J.
- San Francisco/Oakland
For more information about the 2012 NRF Organized Retail Crime Survey, visit www.nrf.com.