The Next Step in Dealing with Organized Retail Crime
There is a need for an expansion or overhaul regarding the communication expectation and allowance within the retail community and law enforcement. Organized Retail Crime (ORC) has become a massive threat that impacts not only the retailer but law enforcement and the community.
It should be made a goal and continuing best practice to expand the understanding and importance of communication between Asset Protection professionals, investigative bodies, corporate entities, and law enforcement officials when it comes to ORC. Organizational performance and individual development can be increased if better alignment is achieved among the various systems and organizations within the industry that ORC impacts.
ORC is professional shoplifting that may include theft or fraud that occurs with which the stolen merchandise, cargo, cash, or cash equivalent is converted into a financial gain instead of personal use. This includes credit card fraud, gift card fraud, price tag switching, or any other organized crime occurring in retail environments where the act is not committed for personal use. The theft or fraud may have multiple items, multiple times, in numerous stores and likely even multiple jurisdictions. A critical element is the number of people involved. ORC has numerous people involved.
ORC is a much bigger problem than most people understand. The retailer does not absorb the losses of such activity; instead, the loss is paid for by the customer via higher prices on the goods they seek. Law Enforcement has begun to react across the country but says that retailers from Wal-Mart to Walgreens are constant targets of alarmingly sophisticated shoplifting networks that steal and resell everything from laundry soap to razors and meat.
Asset protection, law enforcement, and other investigative bodies understand that boosters are moving the goods to black market resellers, who have the potential to make millions each year if their operation is sophisticated enough (Lieberman & Effron, 2013). The need for tracking and communication among retailers regarding these boosters, fences, and bosses is becoming increasingly evident.
Industry leaders who have recognized the threat estimate that ORC costs the United States over $37 billion annually (Lieberman & Effron, 2013). ORC is not isolated to a specific retailer or chain either. In a survey conducted on the topic in 2012, it was discovered that 96% of retailers said that they were victims of ORC.
National and international agencies are involved in the effort as well. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has an Organized Retail Theft program that “specifically focuses on the most significant retail theft cases involving the interstate transportation of stolen property.” The FBI has found that such rings are often also involved or will be involved in other crimes such as health care fraud, money laundering, and potentially even terrorism (FBI, 2011).
Because ORC operations impact multiple retailers, and because many of these rings hit fast, strategically, and across state lines, quick and accurate communication among stakeholders is becoming more critical than ever. Such communication and partnerships can and will expedite the identification and apprehension of those involved (Womack, 2013). This type of communication will require a network of tools and resources and retailer commitment.
The Solution and Value
Organizational development within individual organizations and the industry is necessary to achieve enhanced and essential communication. Having already established the need and the cause for the need, focusing on possible solutions is critical. There are five suggested pieces in this regard.
Strategic planning is the initial and critical step. The goal is communication and partnerships. Hence those who are to be involved in the communication and partnerships need to be involved in the planning stage, as each party may have different restrictions or requirements. When all stakeholders have been identified, the group can better define the strategy or direction the group ultimately wants to go and make decisions on allocating resources available to pursue the agreed-upon approach.
Leadership identification and development is the next piece. This leadership may be identified via consensus or by identifying a legitimate knowledge cache, such as law enforcement or an already established investigative body. This leadership is not meant to dictate so much as to ensure collaboration and cohesion in strategy.
Change management is critical. Many retail establishments in the industry are against exchanging information with competitors. Some retailers have policies that forbid certain types of exchanges as well. These include but are not limited to pictures or documents, two fundamental pieces necessary in communicating ORC to another organization. These rules or restrictions must be changed to achieve the ultimate goal. Understanding the common threat and common purpose within the industry is necessary, and educating those within the industry about the vital need for such communication is fundamental. Leaders within each organization must embrace shared goals and encourage a culture of sharing. Being a learning organization and educating everyone on each layer of the costs and dangers of dealing with ORC is critical. Communicating the needs, obstacles, threats, plans, and victories within the organization will help tremendously.
Performance management is the next identified area of concern. A systematic approach is necessary if enhanced communication can be a reality. The organizations, the departments within those organizations, and the individual employees who comprise those departments must have buy-in if the idea is to become a success. All levels must improve organizational effectiveness in this regard to achieve success. This may include integrative approaches to ORC management, establishing clear expectations for the program, continual performance monitoring, continual development of the systems being utilized, and an established method of constant communication between entities to gauge effectiveness.
Deliberate and strategic stakeholder partnerships are also important. Any passive or non-supported communication between entities will not aid the overall mission. These hurdles also send a mixed signal to those already involved in the effort and may hinder future communication with organizations that are not committed to the current efforts.
Some tools are already available to ensure the success and implementation of these goals. They need to be embraced and put into play. Secure online forums and even online reporting systems in which asset protection and loss prevention professionals can pull information, input information, and even draft police reports directly to a specific agency have already been developed. These systems can become an integrative powerhouse between the different organizations. Furthermore, these types of communications are unobtrusive and are not a threat to any particular organization, as proprietary information is not being exchanged, and a common goal is being sought. This makes the data highly valid and valuable for all stakeholders (Anderson, 2012).
Additionally, smaller groups like those described here are starting to show up around the country. These groups, however, are limited in scope and overall effectiveness when considering the bigger picture. Examples might be that of the Organized Retail Crime Coalition, the Cook County Organized Retail Crime Taskforce (CCROC), or even very successful programs such as the Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crimes Association (LAAORCA) or the Albuquerque Retail Assets Protection Association (ARAPA) (RP, 2011).
Integrating software and other technologies with successful platforms and groups, such as those provided, maybe the next step in approaching this ever-increasing problem. These smaller groups, who continue to show success regarding ORC inter-agency and organizational communication and sharing, demonstrate that expansion and at least limited integration of information and resources may be beneficial.
There is a need for an expansion or overhaul regarding the communication expectation and allowance within the retail community and law enforcement. ORC has become a massive threat that impacts everyone. The goal should be expanding communication between stakeholder partnerships, including law enforcement agencies and other investigative bodies. Organizational performance and individual development can and will be increased if better alignment is achieved among the various systems and organizations within the industry that ORC impacts.
- A $30 Billion-a-Year Industry. (2011, January 3). FBI. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/january/retail_010311
- Anderson, D. L. (2012). Organization development: The process of leading organizational change. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
- Lieberman, D., & Effron, L. (2013, February 26). Busting Underground Shoplifting Rings: Inside Organized Retail Crime Raids. ABC News. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/US/busting-underground-shoplifting-crime-rings-inside-organized-retail/story?id=18600080
- Rodríguez, A. (2012, June 5). 2012 Organized Retail Crime Survey. The National Retail Federation. Retrieved from http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=1380
- RP. (2011, December 5). Retail Partners. Retrieved from http://www.retailpartners.com/tag/ccroc/
- Womack, S. (2013, December 4). Working Together to Combat Organized Retail Crime. The Loss Prevention News Portal. Retrieved from http://lpportal.com/editorial/white-papers/item/2796-working-together-to-combat-organized-retail-crime.html