Organized Crime Gives Retailers That Shrinking Feeling
By George Anderson
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that retailers lose as much as $30 billion a year to organized crime rings and now industry businesses are getting organized themselves to stop this theft.
The New York Times reported that retailers have joined together to create a national database to identify when organized criminal activity is taking place and to assist authorities in sending thieves to jail.
Organized criminal activity hurts retailers in a number of ways. Besides the obvious loss of product, organized rings resell the stolen goods to individuals or retailers.
Among the items at the top of thieves’ list are popular brands, such as Enfamil, Oil of Olay, Pepcid and Gillette shaving products.
While retailers are waking up to the threat of organized shoplifting gangs, so are law enforcement authorities. They too, say retailers, have had to readjust their preconceived notion of who is a shoplifter.
Keith White, head of loss prevention at the Gap, said, “There have been times when law enforcement has had a profile of a shoplifter as a kid with a backpack.”
Frank Muscato, Wal-Mart’s investigative coordinator, recently testified before Congress on the organized shoplifting threat.
“Because state laws are often soft and there is a lack of federal laws addressing the issue, retail theft has become a high-profit, low-risk avenue of crime,” he said.
Mr. Muscato and others are hoping the development of the database will help federal authorities connect the dots and begin to catch and prosecute those involved in this activity.
The retailers are looking to use the database, said Mr. Muscato, to “work up a case large enough for the F.B.I.”
Moderator’s Comment: How is organized criminal activity affecting retailers? What impact does it have on consumers? What will it take to fight organized
crime in retail circles? –
George Anderson – Moderator