Retail crime on the rise as nation faces deepening economic woes

12/10/2008

ARLINGTON, Va. As the economic crunch tightens its grip on the nation, crimes against retailers appear to be on the rise, according to the findings of a recent survey released by The Retail Industry Leaders Association.

According to RILA’s Current Crime Trends Survey, both crimes of opportunity and sophisticated organized retail crime are on the rise across all retail segments.

The survey examines the observations from 52 of the largest and fastest growing retailers in the United States, ranging from food, drug and mass to specialty apparel, electronics and appliances, and fabric and craft retail.

The survey focuses on the time period associated with the current economic downtown and seeks to identify corresponding trends in unlawful activity.

Furthermore, retailers are reporting an alarming upward trend in crimes in regions not typically prone to such increases.

Among the findings:

• 84 percent report an increase in theft/amateur shoplifting

• 76 percent report an increase in financial fraud

• 80 percent report increases in organized retail crime

• 77 percent of specialty retailers report increases in organized retail crime.

In an effort to curb such activity, retailers report that they are working to make improvements in their operations, resource allocation and capital spending. They also continue to work with law enforcement and state and federal legislators to find solutions.

According to The Global Retail Theft Barometer, put out by the Centre for Retail Research, U.S. retailers spent nearly $12 billion last year on loss prevention efforts.

The reported increases in organized retail crime highlight a potential long-term issue, according to RILA. Such crimes involve crime rings that steal and stockpile large quantities of merchandise that they then sell often to unwitting buyers. The stolen merchandise is sold through flea markets, swap meets, pawn shops and increasingly through Internet auction sites. As the economy improves, organized retail crimes will likely continue as the criminal enterprises associated with organized retail crime become reliant on the revenue derived from the commission of this crime.

“Organized retail criminals are ramping up their activity. The resulting ability to fund additional crimes should be a concern to everyone,” said Paul Jones, vice president of asset protection at RILA.

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