February 10, 2022 Op Ed by: Andy Ellen, President and General Counsel, NC Retail…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – December 15, 2021
“Smash and Grabs” and organized retail crime will not be tolerated in North Carolina was the message sent today by representatives of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA), North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys (NC CODA), North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association (NCSA), North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police (NCACP), the North Carolina Information Sharing and Analysis Center (NC ISAAC) and the Carolinas Organized Retail Crime Alliance (CORCA). These organizations and the members they represent will work collectively to prevent these crimes and make certain this criminal activity is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Organized retail crime (ORC) is the involvement of two or more persons in illegally obtaining retail merchandise in substantial quantities, through both theft and fraud, as part of an unlawful commercial enterprise. Throughout the country, brick-and-mortar retailers have experienced organized retail crime rings that target their stores and steal thousands of dollars of goods – often smashing windows and display cases and assaulting store personnel. Organized retail crime now costs retailers an average of $700,000 per $1 billion in sales and three-fourths of retailers saw an increase in organized retail crime in 2020 according to the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey. According to “The Impact of Organized Retail Crime and Product Theft in the United States”:
- 86% of retailers surveyed said an ORC subject has verbally threatened an associate,
- 75.9% said an ORC subject has physically assaulted an associate and
- 41% said an ORC subject has used a weapon to harm an associate
Since the pandemic, societal changes in many cities have also changed the environment for in-store theft: 65 percent of respondents in the 2021 Retail Security Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation said ORC gangs now exhibit greater levels of violence and aggression than they have before. While only 29 percent of retailers reported an average loss of $1,000 in 2019 that number rose to 50 percent in 2020. The most common items targeted by ORC gangs include designer clothing and handbags, laundry detergent, allergy medicine, razors, and pain relievers. When targeting high-value items, a small group can make off with thousands of dollars in merchandise in less than a minute.
“Many retailers struggled to stay in business during COVID and are just now getting back on their feet while trying to navigate labor shortages, supply-chain issues and new COVID-19 variants. It is unfortunate that retailers are having to guard against organized retail crime organizations that target their businesses” said NCRMA President and General Counsel Andy Ellen. “When these sophisticated criminal organizations steal from retailers it threatens the ability of the retailer to stay in business and provide jobs. It also ultimately ends up in higher prices for law abiding consumers. We appreciate all the law enforcement community does in North Carolina to prevent this criminal activity.”
“In addition to conducting larceny and breaking and entering operations on a massive scale, organized retail crime rings are often involved in other criminal activity within the community, including drug related crimes, money laundering and human trafficking just to name a few. Our 100 Sheriffs’ offices across the State recognize the seriousness of these crimes and are committed to working with others in law enforcement and district attorneys to put these brazen criminals behind bars,” Sheriff Ed McMahon, president of the NC Sheriffs’ Association stated.
In North Carolina, a person is guilty of a Class H felony if they conspire with another person to steal more than $1,500 worth of merchandise combined from one or more retail establishments over a ninety-day period. The crime is elevated to a Class G felony if a person conspires to steal more than $20,000 of merchandise from one or more retail establishments over a ninety-day period.
“Our district attorneys have strong tools to prosecute members of organized retail crime organizations should they try to carry out “smash and grabs” or flash mob shoplifting activities in North Carolina. Preventing this activity is key to maintaining safe communities and a strong economy. It’s important for prosecutors to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on these smash and grab robberies. As prosecutors, we must stand with our business communities and law enforcement supporting retail merchants and sending a strong message to would-be thieves,” said Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill who serves as president of the NC Conference of District Attorneys.
“Police chiefs place great emphasis on stopping organized retail crime because of its ties to the illegal drug trade and other illicit activity. We recognize that criminals are more brazen and violent when attacking businesses,” the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police said in a statement. “Our police chiefs don’t want this increased criminal activity to move into our cities and towns in North Carolina and are working collaboratively with retail loss prevention professionals and others in law enforcement to stop it.”
“As the nation’s attention has focused on organized retail crime, NC ISAAC and its national network of fusion centers will support North Carolina’s local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, law enforcement associations and major retail associations through information sharing and analytical support,” said NC ISAAC Director/Special Agent in Charge B.C. Neil.