In Texas and other states, the recent surge in retail theft, witnessed as smash-and-grab robberies, self-checkout thefts and other forms of retail crime, continues making headlines. While frustrated citizens have become more vocal about the rising crimes, retail loss prevention personnel have a renewed sense of optimism. Some positive developments have provided new tools to help mitigate retail theft and create a more secure retail industry.
Two types of crime
Retail crime has increased partly due to organized rings of professional retail criminals. Shoplifting happens when individuals steal things for their personal use. Organized retail crime differs in that it involves a large-scale operation of people stealing merchandise to resell, along with engaging in other types of fraud, theft and money laundering. Retail crime led to almost $1 billion in losses for the retail industry in 2022 and has also put retail workers at risk due to violence in retail stores during thefts.
Many stores have required employees to step back from anyone attempting to steal merchandise out of concern for workers’ safety and potential litigation risks. Some retail workers, such as staff working at Macy’s department stores, went on a brief strike, asking for a pay increase and a solution to the ongoing stress of working in an environment with a high crime and violence rate.
New legislative measures
The Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, called the INFORM Consumers Act, has established certain protections for third-party sellers and consumers using online retail shopping sites. High-volume third-party sellers must provide more personal background information to verify and disclose their identity to buyers. The Act strives to increase online transactions’ transparency and combat the sale of stolen, counterfeit or otherwise suspicious merchandise.
State task forces
California and several other states have assembled new task forces to increase their investigations into organized retail crime. Various agencies, such as the California Highway Patrol’s ORCTF or Organized Retail Crime Task Force, work together to form a robust, interagency solution. California’s state-wide task force coordinates with the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) to identify high-crime areas and provide necessary personnel and equipment resources to assist local law enforcement.
Despite the ongoing news of escalating retail thefts, the industry is beginning to see positive change. New legislation, improved law enforcement strategies and more insightful perspectives contribute to a more secure retail environment.