Hollywood loves a good true crime story, but the days of mobs and prohibition are now little more than distant memories. Today, crime has a new central target: retail.
According to the National Retail Federation’s 11th annual Organized Retail Crime Survey, a near-unanimous 97 percent of retailers were the targets of organized crime activity over the past year to the tune of $30 billion in cumulative losses. The NRF contacted 67 senior-level loss prevention executives as part of the survey to find that 2015’s figure represented a 9-point increase over last year’s 88.2-percent mark.
“Organized retail crime continues to be an issue plaguing retailers, and there continues to be a need to pass strong ORC legislation that defines the issues and provides law enforcement with the necessary tools to help retailers combat the issue,” Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and custom policy at the NRF, said in a statement. “These vast and often dangerous crimes are not limited to any state or jurisdiction and are why we continue to push for federal legislation.”
The survey respondents reported that their organizations lost an average of $453,940 for every $1 billion in sales. On top of that, retailers also spend about $434,032 in annual costs for retail crime prevention practices.
However, some locations attract more fraudulent activity than others, and the NRF noted that Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco have been top locations for such activity for the past several years.
Sure enough, the NRF said that Los Angeles retailers fell victim to the bulk of the criminal activity in the past year, followed by Miami and Chicago, respectively. New York followed in slot No. 4, and Houston came in fifth place, just ahead of its neighboring cities of Arlington/Dallas and Ft. Worth. California as a whole has a bevy of retail crime, with San Francisco/Oakland and Orange County also making the Top 10 list.
Fighting back against coordinated theft has proven difficult, as thieves are taking advantage of new digital means of fencing stolen goods. In addition to traditional methods of flipping merchandise for a profit at pawn shops and flea markets, moving illicitly obtained products online through eCommerce sites has become a popular – and difficult to control – option for organized crime.
U.S. retailers are not alone when it comes to fighting fraudulent activity from organized crime, but as the NRF’s Gold noted, it might take significant support from law enforcement agencies to stem the tide.