Organized retail crime is on the rise, according to a survey conducted by the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
A majority (60 percent) of survey participants experienced a year-over-year increase in the amount of shoplifting by organized crime rings, according to the 2011 Crime Trends and Leading Practices Survey. Additionally, respondents reported increases in the frequency with which organized crime rings committed online theft/fraud (44 percent) and gift card fraud (38 percent). The organization surveyed 34 of its members to generate the results.
Shoplifting by individuals acting alone also increased for 41 percent of respondents, according to the survey. Additionally, 35 percent experienced an increase in individuals committing refund fraud and 32 percent experienced an increase in individuals committing credit card fraud.
"In reviewing the results, we were disappointed, though not surprised to see the continued rise in shoplifting by organized groups and individuals acting alone," Lisa LaBruno, RILA's vice president of loss prevention and legal affairs, said in a statement.
A majority (73 percent) of respondents also experienced an increase in cash and merchandise theft from internal sources.
When it comes to deterring external theft, respondents cited "customer service" (85 percent) and merchandise protection strategies (62 percent) as the most effective options. Respondents cited new hire orientation (82 percent) and internal hotlines (61 percent) as the most effective deterrents to internal theft.
The Internet is becoming an important tool for shoplifters: 61 percent of survey respondents experienced an increase in shoplifted merchandise being resold online, while zero respondents experienced a decrease in the same. Additionally, private residences and flea markets were popular venues for the resale of stolen goods, with respondents seeing an increase in each of 48 percent and 47 percent, respectively.
LaBruno said legislative action should be pursued to reduce the ease at which stolen goods are resold. "It's concerning that retailers continue to fight an uphill battle against the resale of stolen goods online, in flea markets and other venues," LaBruno said. "As long as there are channels through which thieves can resell stolen goods, it will be difficult to stem the tide of organized retail crime. That's why it's so important that we continue to explore state and federal legislative solutions and to enhance partnerships with external stakeholders to find a solution to the growing problem of ORC."
When it comes to loss prevention investigations, it's no surprise that other retailers are helpful (94 percent of respondents reported receiving at least some help from their peers) while pawn shops are often not (65 percent of respondents reported receiving very little assistance from pawn shops).
When it comes to flash mobs—defined by the survey as "a large group of offenders coordinating efforts to commit large-scale theft at a single retail location at the same time"—the survey found they are more hype than a serious problem for retailers. (This is similar to the conclusion the National Retail Federation came to in early August when it issued guidelines for how retailers should handled flash mobs.) The majority of respondents (79 percent) reported no change in the frequency of flash mobs in the past year, though 21 percent did report experiencing an increase in the activity.
The survey results also address pharmacy theft, use of force by shoplifters and the use of social media as a tool for loss prevention professionals.