Public-private partnerships an effective tool in the fight against ORC

July 28, 2015
Twin Cities initiative a prime example of what can be achieved when retailers, law enforcement come together

Organized retail crime is used as a low-risk means for generating profits that are funneled into terrorist activities, the drug trade and violent street gangs. ORC impacts an entire community far beyond the monetary loss to a retailer. Patchwork legislation may slow this type of crime, but the real solution is a public-private partnership.

An example of retailers and law enforcement working together effectively to combat ORC can be found in Minnesota. The Twin Cities Organized Retail Crime Association (TCORCA) was formed in 2014 by members of law enforcement, crime analysts, prosecutors, corporate fraud and loss prevention investigators. The organization’s main goal is to enhance communication to combat the criminal enterprises that take advantage of the lack of communication among law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. TCORCA funds and administers a secure website to aid with alerts and investigations, coordinates quarterly regional investigative meetings, and holds an annual conference.

Both the private sector and law enforcement bring their unique abilities together to make a difference in the number of ORC cases that are closed satisfactorily. Retailers provide their expertise and support, while law enforcement applies its investigative skills, tools, and legal authority to hold these criminals to account, working hand-in-hand with prosecutors to ensure best practices in enforcement and the building of cases. In Minnesota, as is true elsewhere, ORC has had a severe and increasing impact for years. Most agencies and corporations eagerly participate in TCORCA, with growing attendance at the regional meetings and frequent use of the secure website to share information.

Private industry benefits from this partnership through reduced losses and enhanced relationships with law enforcement, while police see increased arrests, criminal charges and access to the criminal element that often leads to further discovery of criminal activity outside of the retail realm (drugs, weapons, etc.). The arrest and prosecution of career criminals, who are often involved in other dangerous and serious criminal activity in addition to ORC, creates a safer retail environment and allows law enforcement to bring successful cases to completion.

Although some law enforcement agencies may not have ORC on their radar screens, TCORCA members believe that the best way to approach LE is to demonstrate how ORC has had an impact on a store financially over multiple instances, depreciating employees’ and customers’ sense of safety. Police must prioritize tasks, and property crime usually is not on the top of the list.  The key is to show that ORC is often perpetrated by career criminals who are brazen, sometimes violent, and have extensive criminal histories.  An ORC case that is well put together by a retailer can give law enforcement and prosecution the tools they need to take aggressive enforcement action against these offenders.

TCORCA’s regional investigative meetings bring hundreds of attendees from all across the state who are able to assist each other with suspect recognition and linking cases, which allows for many other cases to be brought that would otherwise go unsolved.  At the January 2015 regional meeting, for example, TCORCA members were able to identify 12 suspects from various theft cases who were previously unknown. Investigators were able to continue their cases and pursue criminal charges against these individuals.

Interstate crimes have also been brought to a halt. In the spring of 2015, there were multiple thefts targeting Ulta stores across Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin with a total loss value of more than $30,000.  By coordinating with contacts from TCORCA and from the Cook County Regional Organized Crime (CCROC) Task Force in Illinois, investigators were able to identify the four subjects involved and pursue felony charges in multiple jurisdictions.  One of these subjects was on probation for a previous armed robbery charge and was taken into custody on federal charges.

Crossing jurisdictional lines is a method that thieves regularly use in order to avoid detection. However, organizations like TCORCA help remove that advantage for the bad guys. In July 2015, an alert was posted on the organization’s website about a pending investigation in Bloomington, Minn.  A retailer in Woodbury, Minn. saw the alert and recognized the suspects from a recent theft.  Law enforcement agencies will now be able to aggregate these charges to bring felony charges against the subjects.

TCORCA is holding its annual conference on August 3 and 4, 2015, in Plymouth, Minn. The conference agenda is designed to provide education on all areas of ORC from local and national subject matter experts and to help attendees enhance their abilities to recognize and prosecute these crimes. And of course, the networking opportunity at conferences of this type can be invaluable for LE and retailers alike.

Details about the Twin Cities Organized Retail Crime Association (TCORCA) and its August 2015 conference can be found at

About the Author: Liz Martinez is a retail security analyst and expert witness. She is the author of "The Retail Manager’s Guide to Crime and Loss Prevention" and will be speaking at the TCORCA conference as well as the Retail Fraud – New York conference in September 2015. She can be reached at

About the Author

Liz Martinez

Liz Martinez is a consultant and an expert witness in retail security, particularly organized retail crime, and in forensic linguistics. She is a Ph.D. candidate in linguistics at Arizona State University with a research focus on false confessions, and she serves as the Programs Chair for the Phoenix chapter of ASIS International. She is the author of the book The Retail Manager’s Guide to Crime & Loss Prevention: Protecting Your Business from Theft, Fraud and Violence (Looseleaf Law, 2004) and the novel Sticks and Stones, as well as hundreds of articles and short stories. She can be reached via