The Role of Technology in Combating Organized Retail Crime

With a significant rise in reported violence from both shoplifters and organized retail crime groups, businesses are turning more and more to technology-based solutions to protect their products, their employees, and their customers.

Last Updated:
March 4, 2024
| ~
min Read
Nikki Siegel
Marketing Writer

“Relax while we shop for you.”

These are the words plastered next to the tablet-like kiosk in the newly renovated downtown Chicago Walgreens.

The store, with the exception of two low-rise aisles of merchandise, recently transitioned to pick-up order service. If you want any products other than the goods deemed “essential” in those two shop-for-yourself aisles, you need to head to the kiosk, place your order, and wait while employees assemble your purchased goods for you to pick up at the front counter.

While on the more extreme end of things, this prototype store design certainly reduces opportunities for wrongdoers to easily steal product. With a significant rise in reported violence from both shoplifters and organized retail crime groups, businesses are turning more and more to technology-based solutions to protect their products, their employees, and their customers.

Organized Retail Crime: What is it?

Organized retail crime (ORC) refers to organized crime groups participating in professional, coordinated shoplifting, cargo theft, and other crimes committed in the retail environment. Unlike small-scale shoplifting, which occurs when an individual snags product for their own personal use or gain, ORC groups work as a unit to take larger quantities of product and convert those stolen goods into cash via a professional fencing operation.

The theft of products certainly impacts retailer’s bottom lines, but the product loss is far from the only issue: As ORC groups grow more brazen and more violent, customer and employee safety becomes a very real concern.

Traditionally, security measures based around people (including security guards and employee vigilance) were the go-to method for trying to stop theft in stores. This, however, puts those people trying to stop the crime directly into harm’s way if things turn violent.

Thankfully, with the rise in technological advancements on several fronts, new technology offers a number of ways to bridge that gap between asset protection and employee safety.

Preventing In-Store ORC

Retail security systems and organized retail crime prevention go hand-in-hand. Since different stores offer different security challenges and temptations for criminals, there is no one-size-fits-all security solution. Fortunately, there are a number of tech-based options available, allowing business owners to customize a system that best protects their product and people.

Mobile Security Units

Security begins on the outside, which is why it’s such an effective deterrent to have a large, obvious parking lot security tower parked right outside of your business. In addition to its actual functionality, a big mobile security unit also serves as a “This store is not an easy mark” warning to potential wrongdoers, often causing them to move their mischief elsewhere or—even better—to forgo the crime entirely.

Mobile security units like the LVT Unit offer a number of benefits beyond deterrence as advanced camera systems combine with advanced detection capabilities, alerting you to potential problems and providing evidence in the case a crime is committed.

In-Store Security Cameras

There’s a reason the retail security camera has been around for a long time: security cameras are one of the more effective ways to deter, detect, and record wrongdoing. When paired with AI and other advanced detection software, the security camera becomes even more effective, offering automated detection and alerts, pattern recognition, and more.

AI-enhanced cameras can monitor shelves, verify self-checkout purchases in-progress, and even spot suspicious behavior potentially linked to ORC activity.

Facial Recognition and License Plate Readers

One key addition to security cameras is software that allows for the detection and recognition of key features such as faces and license plates. Facial recognition software can help identify criminals already in the system (as repeat offenders are common) and those who may have come into the store as part of an ORC group before. License plate readers provide key evidence in the event that wrongdoers make it out with stolen merchandise, helping to narrow the field for law enforcement on the case.


Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are small tags typically attached to higher value products. If these tags are not deactivated during the checkout process, they raise the alarm if someone attempts to exit the store with them.

Since ORC groups may not always care about subtlety, some companies have taken this technology a step further. Lowe’s Project Unlock, which was designed to prevent power tool theft, embeds a RFID chip into the tool’s functionality. Once a tool is purchased and scanned, it’s unlocked and ready to use. If someone attempts to skip the checkout process, the power tool stays inoperable.

Self-Locking Shopping Carts

As most ORC gangs are after large quantities of products, it’s not unusual for them to try to make off with an entire loaded shopping cart of unpurchased merchandise. This type of theft—known as pushout theft—frequently becomes violent if store employees attempt to intervene. To prevent confrontation and product loss, some companies are turning to self-locking shopping carts. These carts lock in place if thieves attempt to walk out of a store without going through checkout first, forcing the thief to abandon the goods or only make out with what they can quickly grab with their hands.

Smart Access Locks

While locks are always a good idea when it comes to backroom storage, traditional lock-and-key setups are vulnerable to key duplication or unofficial key lending. Smart access locks with unique codes for each employee are more difficult to bypass. In the event of an inside accomplice, the unique codes and log of access times can point you in the direction of the employee working with the ORC group.

ORC in the Supply Chain

To get products from the production lines to the stores, these products are neatly packaged and placed on pallets to protect them and make the shipping process that much easier. Unfortunately, this neat pallet packaging makes coordinated ORC theft much more convenient when it comes to making off with large quantities of product.

Artificial intelligence tracking systems like are designed to track products from their origin point to their final destination, enabling companies to easily spot if something goes amiss along the way (and speeding the response times for those instances).

Mobile security units are ideal for monitoring supply chain points as they are readily able to be adjusted with each incoming shipment and can alert security personnel if product is moved before it should be.

Collaboration Via the Cloud

After a theft has occurred, time is a vital factor in the potential recovery of product and prosecution of ORC group members. For the best chance at recovery and prosecution, the ability to quickly share video evidence with law enforcement can make a world of difference. Video management systems based in the cloud like the LVT Platform make sharing video evidence as simple as the click of a few buttons.

The ability to share evidence virtually can also be of use when collaborating with neighboring retailers. If an ORC group is active in your area, it’s very probable your business isn’t the only one being hit. Identification of these issues and the collective evidence from multiple sources are often the best way to shut down the crime rings before they can cause even more damage.

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