5 ways to identify and combat organized retail crime

A man in a black ski mask committing organized retail crime (ORC) by breaking into a store with a crowbar.

The retail industry has traditionally been responsible for managing inventory, assisting customers, and handling returns and sales. But recently, their responsibilities have expanded to include something unfortunate: keeping an eye out for criminals. Specifically, organized retail crime (ORC) threatens all stages of retail, from warehousing to transportation and the selling of goods. As criminals grow in their knowledge and skills, these threats will only become more severe. 

What is organized retail crime? 

Organized retail crime refers to the large-scale theft of retail merchandise by sophisticated criminal groups who intend to resell the items for financial gain. Often, they’ll employ threats and acts of violence, sometimes including the use of weapons, to aid these thefts. The stolen products are then sold through online marketplaces, flea markets, etc. in order to fund other illegal activities. During 2022, these stolen goods accounted for over $100 billion in losses in the United States alone. 

Although ORC poses a threat, there are several actions you can take to safeguard your business against it. By better educating yourself on what these crimes look like and implementing the right defenses, you’ll have the tools you need to better protect your employees, customers, and goods.  

5 ways to prevent ORC:

1. Train employees to recognize who is behind organized retail crime

A few key signs can give away whether someone is planning to steal retail goods. For example, organized retail crime often involves criminal enterprises or crime rings. If a large group enters a store or surrounds a cargo vehicle, it’s important to practice caution. Similarly, whenever a stranger is around high-value goods, it’s best to remain aware of what they’re doing. 

By conducting regular training sessions, you’ll better equip your employees to understand these and other signs. In turn, it will become easier to spot criminal activities and avoid goods from being stolen in the first place. 

2. Stay up to date on organized retail crime methods

Organized retail crime can occur in several locations, including stores, warehouses, or in transit. When it comes to store-based theft, fraudulent returns can pose huge problems. In 2022, these returns made up over 10% of all returns. This amounted to nearly $85 billion in lost revenue. 

Smash-and-grab methods are also very common. This tactic involves criminals smashing through doors or windows and quickly stealing everything they can. The obvious property damage aside, this can also cost businesses millions of dollars in stolen goods, if not more. 

While smash-and-grabs may be the most visible form of ORC, cargo theft is potentially more hazardous. It can take on many forms, including strategic theft, straight theft, and pilferage. Worse, criminals are constantly employing new methods, such as the recent rise in altered BOLs, which are used to deceive recievers. For this reason, it’s integral that companies remain alert to new and evolving tactics.  

3. Support initiatives to combat ORC

Along with training employees and keeping up with ORC trends, an important way to prevent organized retail crime is by working with the larger community. This means everything from alerting other supply chains about risk to supporting initiatives to combat it. For example, the Combatting Organized Retail Crime Act of 2023 sought to expand federal involvement in preventing these crimes.  

Similar to how you should keep informed of evolving theft patterns, you should also keep an eye out for updates to this and similar bills. 

4. Work with local law enforcement agencies

Although it’s wise to train employees on how to spot criminals, it is neither safe nor sensible to expect them to intervene. The same is true of drivers, who could face violence for trying to stop a crime. Instead, it’s important that your company proactively develop close connections with law enforcement officials. That way, if and when you need them, they’re only a quick phone call away. 

5. Ensure you have the right tech to keep cargo safe

Year over year, as cargo theft crimes increase, cargo in-transit has become especially at risk for ORC. As retail becomes an even bigger target, companies need the right technology to help maintain visibility and monitor risk. 

Overhaul provides companies with the in-transit visibility and risk monitoring tools they need to stay aware, prepared, and protected. From our Intelligent Door Seal Solution that provides alerts against tampering to our AI-backed RiskGPT, we offer holistic, scalable support. And in case the worst happens and a shipment is stolen, we also work with law enforcement to help get it back.  

Learn more about how Overhaul supports retail companies and helps prevent ORC. 

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