Combating Organized Retail Crime: Insights from Industry Experts

Combating organized retail crime requires robust collaboration, dedicated task forces, and continuous adaptation to protect retailers and communities.

Last Updated:
June 13, 2024
| ~
min Read
Kailey Boucher
Marketing Writer

Organized retail crime (ORC) is a sophisticated, multi-jurisdictional problem that's becoming increasingly costly. In the first half of 2023 alone, ORC cost retailers over $293 million. Unlike traditional shoplifting, these attacks are run by coordinated networks that operate across multiple counties and states, making them challenging for local law enforcement to track and apprehend. 

Traditional security measures and local policing efforts, while crucial, often struggle to keep pace with these adaptable criminals who can quickly shift their operations to exploit vulnerabilities in different regions. 

In a recent webinar, ORC experts from the Michigan Attorney General's office, Meijer Stores, Kroger, and The Home Depot came together to discuss this growing threat to retailers and communities alike. These experts in retail and security shared their insights on combating ORC through collaboration and innovation. Here's a peek at the insights they brought to the table.

The Need For Collaboration 

If this webinar hammered home one key point, it's that no one can take down ORC alone. The solution? A united front with all hands on deck—retailers, attorneys general, law enforcement, you name it. As Frank Patercity of Kroger put it, "There's no competition in tragedy. When we have a major crime or a criminal enterprise that targets us in the retail organized crime arena, we know that it targets other retailers as well."

The other panelists echoed this need for collaboration, and the importance of building robust partnerships and sharing intelligence was repeatedly highlighted as essential for effectively combating ORC.

The Importance of Dedicated ORC Task Forces 

Task forces dedicated to tackling ORC are crucial in this collaborative fight. Eric Sterbis from the Michigan AG's office explained, “Organized retail crime is multi-jurisdictional. It just doesn't happen in one city or one county. These groups jump around from county to county to county across the state. There's been no prosecuting agency that has really been equipped to handle these types of cases.” 

The establishment of Michigan’s Force Team, a team dedicated to ORC enforcement, has allowed for a more coordinated response to these multi-jurisdictional crime rings. This team’s statewide jurisdictional authority enables it to tackle ORC in ways local agencies cannot.

Others are quickly following Michigan's lead in creating dedicated ORC task forces, driven in part by major retailer support and advocacy. Sean Browne of The Home Depot noted his company has seen tremendous results by devoting resources directly to task forces—results that are challenging to replicate in areas without such initiatives.

Leveraging Diverse Expertise 

While task forces are a powerful tool, the panelists emphasized that a unified, collaborative approach across all stakeholders is required to make genuine headway. Paul Jaeckle, from Meijer,  described how ORC had traditionally been tackled through grassroots efforts, working with state organized retail crime associates and collaborating locally with individual retailers. However, as ORC has become one of the fastest-growing areas of loss for retailers, Meijer recognized the need to adopt a more comprehensive approach.

Jaeckle explained that Meijer brought together a holistic team that includes internal members from various departments, such as asset protection, operations, government affairs, and legal, as well as external partners. This broader collaboration aims to address ORC beyond just the investigative aspect, ensuring a more thorough and coordinated response.

One significant impact of this approach has been in legislative advocacy. The government affairs and legislative team at Meijer has been instrumental in educating lawmakers about the distinctions between ORC and general shoplifting, advocating for laws that reflect the severity and complexity of ORC. This education and advocacy work have helped in creating stronger legal frameworks to prosecute ORC cases appropriately.

An Evolving Battleground 

Another consistent theme was the need for ongoing adaptation as retail organized crime tactics and patterns evolve. "There's not really a finish line for us in this particular space," Jaeckle stated. "The continuation of understanding those dynamics and sharing that intel has been absolutely critical."

Collaborating across public and private sectors, sharing intelligence, and collaborative innovation will be crucial for law enforcement and retailers to stay ahead of increasingly sophisticated criminal networks.

Protecting Our Communities from Retail Organized Crime

At the end of the day, the battle against retail organized crime is about more than just merchandise on shelves. "This isn't something that just affects us," Patercity emphasized. "It affects all of us, and I mean all of us. I mean, every one of us in America."

Think about it: when ORC groups go unchecked, they create an environment that seeps far beyond store walls. It's a matter of community safety, impacting not just retailers and customers but every neighborhood these criminal networks touch.

By working hand-in-hand, leveraging partnerships, task forces, and intel sharing, we're not just fighting retail crime. We're protecting employees, preserving economic stability, and ensuring our communities remain the thriving spaces we want to shop, work, and raise families in.

Interested in learning more? Watch the full webinar recording and hear directly from the experts leading this charge.

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