There is a need for an expansion or overhaul in regard to 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 as a whole.
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 are impacted by ORC.
ORC is professional shoplifting of any kind 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, and 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, conducted over multiple times, in multiple stores, and possibly even multiple jurisdictions. A critical element is the number of people involved. ORC has multiple people involved.
ORC is a much bigger problem than most people understand. The losses of such activity are not absorbed by the retailer; 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 say 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 in regard to 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 a year (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).
The fact that ORC operations impact multiple retailers, and because many of these rings hit fast, strategically, and across state lines, quick and accurate communication among stake holders is becoming more important than ever. Such communication and partnerships can and will expedite identification and apprehension of those involved (Womack, 2013). This type of communication will require a network of tools and resources as well as retailer commitment.
The Solution and Value
Organizational development both within the individual organizations and the industry as a whole is necessary to achieve the enhanced and necessary communication. Having already established the need and the cause for the need, focus 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 direction.
Leadership identification and development is the next piece. This leadership may be indentified via consensus or through identification of a legitimate knowledge cache, such as law enforcement or an already established investigative body. This leadership is not meant to dictate, so much as 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 in an effort to achieve the ultimate goal. Understanding the common threat and common goal within the industry is necessary, and educating those within the industry of the vital need for such communication is fundamental. Leaders within each organization must embrace the common goals and encourage a culture of sharing in this regard. 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 be become a success. All levels must work on improving organizational effectiveness in this regard if success is to be achieved. This may include integrative approaches to ORC management, establishing clear expectations for the program, a continual monitoring of the performance, a 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 in the overall mission. These hurdles also send a mixed signal to those who are already involved in the effort and may actually hinder future communication with organizations that are not committed to the current efforts.
There are tools that are already available to ensure the success and implementation of these goals, they just need to be embraced, and put in 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 in nature 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 extremely valuable for all stakeholders (Anderson, 2012).
Additionally, smaller groups similar to what has been 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 Task force (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, may be the next step in approaching this ever increasing problem. These smaller groups, who continue to show success in regard to ORC inter-agency and organizational communication and sharing, demonstrate that an expansion and at least limited integration of information and resources may be beneficial.
There is clearly a need for an expansion or overhaul in regard to 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 to expand communication between stakeholder partnerships, including different 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 are impacted by ORC.
- 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