Washington, D.C. -- Los Angeles, New York and Chicago top the list of the cities with the highest organized retail crime activity, with Miami and Atanta rounding out the top five, according to a study by the National Retail Federation.
The NRF’s ninth annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Survey found that while organized crime has inched down slightly, it remains widespread. Over 90% (93.5%) of retailers said they had been a victim of organized retail crime during the past year, down from 96% the prior year.
"Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organized retail crime, savvy, unconscionable criminals are selling stolen merchandise for a profit that doesn’t belong to them,” said NRF VP of loss prevention Rich Mellor.
The survey revealed that concerns over store merchandise credit and gift card fraud schemes are growing. Nearly 80% of those surveyed said they had experienced a situation where thieves returned stolen merchandise without a receipt for the sole purpose of receiving store credit via a gift card to sell for cash to secondary markets that include kiosks, pawn shops and check cashing stores.
"This is an important crime to keep an eye on, as this could easily turn from being an organized tactic to one that amateurs could adopt," Mellor said. "In conversations with retailers and law enforcement, we’ve learned that there are already defrauding processes being put in place, but retailers continue to lose millions of dollars to this enterprise scheme."
Cargo theft activity is growing. Almost half of survey respondents said they have been a victim of cargo theft in the past year. Cargo theft impacts every moving part of the supply chain and costs retailers billions of dollars.
In other findings, online anonymity pushes e-fencing as a preferred method for organized retail crime gangs. Six in 10 retailers surveyed this year say they have seen an increase in e-fencing activity in the past year, up significantly from 49% last year. Online auction sites and other third party selling sites have given criminals the anonymity that fencing locations often don't offer, the report said.
One of the most distressing trends in organized crime activity, according to NRF, is the propensity for thieves to resort to violence to avoid being apprehended, putting store personnel, law enforcement and customers at risk. According to the survey, retailers said on average two in 10 (18.3%) apprehensions lead to some level of violence, up from 15.2% last year and 13% the prior year.
Individuals connected to "gateway crimes," or crimes that are known to lead to bigger crimes, such as the use of or sale of drugs and weapons, are often found to be associated with organized crime gangs. According to the survey, retailers say on average 44.8% of those apprehended for ORC are involved in gateway crimes.
The survey included participation from 77 loss prevention executives representing all retail channels.