Federal law enforcement officials testify before congress on ORC

Arlington, VA –Federal law enforcement officials testified today before Congress to the size and scope of organized retail crime (ORC) and the challenges they face combating its growth, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) noted.

The hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee of Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security included representatives from the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Subcommittee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott is the sponsor of one of three bills currently before Congress aimed at addressing this growing crime.

“Organized retail crime (ORC) is a serious crime with real health and consumer safety implications that endangers our neighborhoods and citizens. Federal legislation is essential to providing law enforcement officials the tools they need to stop ORC, bringing federal criminal laws into the 21st Century and protecting consumers from unknowingly purchasing fraudulent or unsafe goods.” said John Emling, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Organized Retail Crime involves sophisticated criminal networks made up of many individuals who steal large quantities of goods from retailers and sell the goods for profit through pawn shops, flea markets and increasingly on the Internet. Experts estimate organize retail crime losses in the tens of billions of dollars annually.

When stolen goods are mishandled or altered, the health and safety of end users can be jeopardized. In most cases, consumers are unaware of the unlawful source of the products purchased from anonymous sellers. This is of particular concern when sensitive items such as baby formula, diabetic test strips and over the counter medicine is involved. Recent investigations have uncovered sensitive health and beauty items stored at high temperatures damaging the safety and reliability of the product.

“RILA would like to thank Chairman Scott for his leadership in calling this hearing and his continued dedication and support for federal legislation to effectively deter criminals and protect consumers from harm,” Emling concluded.

“RILA commends law enforcement for their commitment to tracking and prosecuting ORC thieves, despite limited resources and a disparate set of state and local laws," said Casey Chroust, executive vice president for retail operations. “Retailers are committed to working with Congress to give law enforcement the tools it needs to effectively prosecute and deter this growing nationwide criminal activity."

The Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, which RILA chairs, hosted a briefing in advance of today’s hearing. A recording of the press conference is available by dialing (800) 642-1687 and entering code 39367794.

Coalition testimonyprovided to the committee for the record can be viewed here.

Organized Retail Crime Legislation:

The E-fencing Enforcement Act of 2009 (HR 1166), introduced by Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), would impose reasonable duties on online marketplaces when there is good reason to believe that items listed for sale were acquired unlawfully.

The Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009 (HR 1173), introduced by Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), which modifies the federal criminal code to include ORC activities, and makes the facilitation of ORC a crime. The legislation also imposes practical reporting requirements on the operators of online marketplaces and sellers when goods are suspected of having been acquired through ORC.

The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2009 (S 470), introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) would clarify existing law to give law enforcement the tools to fight ORC, require on-line and off-line market places to investigate suspicious sales, and place basic disclosure requirements on on-line marketplaces.