Down in Mississippi, two women allegedly stole $18,000 worth of goods from a Polo Ralph Lauren store at a Tanger Outlets in two separate “grab & go style thefts,” according to Southaven Police. Police said security footage showed them fleeing in a Nissan Altima that appeared to be packed with clothing.
Out west in Washington state, the Kent Police Department said its “third successful retail theft collaboration” in the past year resulted in the arrest of eight suspects who were trying to steal almost $4,000 in merchandise from a local Target store. “Our Kent Target has been experiencing a substantial amount of theft on a weekly basis, with some suspects so brazen that they calmly walk out of the store with hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of stolen merchandise in their carts,” police wrote on Facebook, saying it recovered the shoplifted goods. “Many of [the] suspects are repeat offenders, with some of them hitting our local stores for thousands of dollars of merchandise in a week, over and over again.”
Police said the “driving force in setting up these stings” is a “response to the overwhelming amount of retail theft” occurring in the area. “We won’t say where, and we won’t say when, but we will be back at another location soon,” it added.
One shoplifting suspect recently went viral on TikTok. A video from @tessibaby1 this week shows a female shoplifter being locked out of a getaway car by her accomplice while she holds dozens of Nike sweatpants she apparently hadn’t paid for. The suspect dropped the clothing and fled on foot after the driver sped out of the parking lot. The video showed that she was detained shortly thereafter.
As retailers and law enforcement up the ante on loss prevention, new legislation aims to deter would-be criminals trying to profit from stolen goods. Retailers and trade groups applauded the passage of the INFORM Consumers Act signed into law as a part of the 2023 omnibus spending package.
Taking effect in June, the consumer protection law compels online marketplaces to collect and verify basic information before third-party sellers are allowed to transact. The law aims to increase transparency on digital marketplaces so consumers have a better idea of a product’s origins, and to boost accountability by preventing sellers from acting anonymously.
The Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) believes the INFORM Act could be benefit from potential legislation proposing a federal Organized Retail Crime (ORC) task force. The initiative would unite federal law enforcement—including the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations and United States Postal Service—to intervene in ORC and prosecute crime rings. RILA anticipates that bipartisan, bicameral legislation will be reintroduced in Congress this year.
“Seeing the INFORM Act become law was a tremendous accomplishment, but our work battling organized retail crime is far from over,” RILA senior executive vice president of public affairs Michael Hanson said. “Establishing a federal task force that pulls together all of the respective agencies that have jurisdiction over organized retail crime is necessary to enhance collaboration and transparency in the fight against sophisticated crime rings.”
Criminal organization are using the profits from the sale of stolen goods to fuel other illegal activities, including human trafficking, smuggling gun, selling drugs and terrorism, Hanson said, which “makes collaboration between agencies more important than ever.”
RILA said it will work with state attorneys general and local district attorneys to create state ORC task forces, and educate police and other stakeholders on how to identify and prosecute criminals affecting retail businesses. Organized retail crimes currently cost retailers about $70 billion a year.
“Organized theft is obviously a huge hit to the bottom line for any retailer, but equally if not more discerning is the impact brazen and violent theft is having on retail employees,” said Lisa LaBruno, RILA senior executive vice president of retail operations. The INFORM Act could end “the days of hiding behind fake screen names to fence stolen product online,” she added.
“With better transparency, more resources and better collaboration across law enforcement, these criminal networks had better get the message: We’re coming for them,” she added.