Merchants Welcome Signing of Organized Retail Theft Bill

New legislation establishes organized retail theft task force at FBI


WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Retail Federation today welcomed the signing of legislation that would establish an Organized Retail Theft Task Force at the FBI and create an organized retail crime database similar to NRF’s Retail Loss Prevention Intelligence Network.

“The establishment of an FBI task force on organized retail theft is a major victory for retailers,” NRF Vice President for Loss Prevention Joseph LaRocca said. “This task force and the related database will play a major role in putting these criminals where they belong – behind bars. This shows that Congress and the Administration have recognized that organized retail crime isn’t just everyday shoplifting and that they are committed to fighting this growing problem.”

H.R. 3402, the Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005, sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., was signed into law by President Bush on January 5.

Among other provisions, the bill requires the Attorney General to establish an ORT task force within the FBI. The panel would be directed to work closely with the retail community on creating a national database or clearinghouse operated in the private sector to identify where organized retail crimes are being committed. The information would help the FBI quickly identify hot spots of organized retail crime activity across the country in order to deploy agents and resources more efficiently.

The bill also provides a concise working definition of organized retail crime and authorizes $5 million annually for law enforcement to participate in the database as well as for the training of federal law enforcement agents to investigate and prosecute the crimes.

The bill is a significant win for retailers, who have been increasingly victimized by professional shoplifting gangs in recent years. Federal law enforcement authorities estimate that theft rings steal as much as $30 billion in merchandise from retail stores each year.

The database created under the bill would be established by the private sector for use by retailers and law enforcement nationwide. The Retail Loss Prevention Intelligence Network officially launched by NRF late last fall was designed in anticipation of the passing of the legislation, and NRF has worked closely with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to ensure that RLPIN meets the needs of retailers and law enforcement partners. RLPIN is a secure computer database that allows participating retailers to share information about incidents ranging from burglaries to organized theft. Its ability to identify trends by geographic area or type of incident is expected to help reveal patterns of organized theft and other major loss prevention incidents.

NRF is a member of the Coalition Against Organized Retail Theft, which worked with Sensenbrenner, Representative Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Senator Larry Craig, R-Idaho, go have the organized theft language included in the bill. NRF has played a leading role in the retail industry’s fight against organized theft in recent years, establishing RLPIN and working closely with law enforcement.