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Chicago among top big cities for organized retail theft

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Updated: June 5, 2012 4:30PM



Chicago ranks in the top 10 urban areas in reporting organized retail crime such as gangs thefts and stealing to help street gangs, according to a report issued Tuesday by the National Retail Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based retail membership group.

“Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organized retail crime, sophisticated criminals with unending opportunities and anonymous outlets to sell their stolen merchandise are proving to be quite challenging for both retailers and law enforcement agencies working to combat this issue,” said National Retail Federation Senior Asset Protection Adviser Joe LaRocca. “With the types of organized retail crimes changing in severity and scope every day, and cargo theft and violent instances becoming more troubling, retailers are constantly on high alert.”

Of the 125 retail companies surveyed for NRF’s eighth annual Organized Retail Crime Survey, a record-high 96 percent say their company has been the victim of organized retail crime in the past year, up from 94.5 percent last year, and another 87.7 percent say organized retail crime activity in the United States has grown in the past three years.

Cargo theft continues to grow at an alarming rate, posing huge problems for retailers and their distribution centers. On average:

♦52.1 percent of companies say they have been a victim of cargo theft in the past 12 months, up from 49.6 percent last year.

♦68.1 percent said cargo theft occurs mostly en route from the distribution center to the store, compared to 57.4 percent who said so in 2011.

♦43.5 percent say these incidents also occur en route from manufacturer to distribution center.

♦15.9 percent say they happen at the distribution center.

The survey also indicates a growing trend in the level of violence retailers see when organized criminal gangs are apprehended (15 percent of incidents vs. 13 percent in 2011). Retailers grappling with these violent acts also report that they believe more offenders are engaged in drug activity. Nearly half estimate drugs and drug activity are linked to organized retail crime incidents.

Others in the top 10 are: Atlanta; Baltimore/Washington; Dallas; Houston; Los Angeles/Orange County; New York/northern N.J.; Miami; Phoenix; San Francisco/Oakland.

When asked what new trends in organized retail crime they have noticed in the past year, retailers cited familiar issues involving the economy, returned stolen merchandise, gift card fraud, and increases in violent activity upon apprehension. However, new to the list of trends this year were specific references to digital receipt fraud; increased smash and grab incidents; and collusion with street gangs.

When reporters caught up with Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy about the retail theft report Tuesday morning, he said he hadn’t read it in full.

“Retail theft is something that police departments are probably going to struggle to deal with,” McCarthy said outside a county board meeting where he and his officers were honored for their work during the NATO Summit. “There’s street-level crime and there’s crime that happens indoors. For instance domestic violence is something that’s more difficult to get inside of because  it’s happening generally behind closed indoors. Same issue with retail theft. I have to look at the problem, I have to determine exactly where we are and what we’re doing about it,” he said, noting “it’s not something on the radar so far.”

When reporters caught up with Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy about the retail theft report Tuesday morning, he said he hadn’t read it in full.

“Retail theft is something that police departments are probably going to struggle to deal with,” McCarthy said outside a county board meeting where he and his officers were honored for their work during the NATO Summit. “There’s street-level crime and there’s crime that happens indoors. For instance domestic violence is something that’s more difficult to get inside of because  it’s happening generally behind closed indoors. Same issue with retail theft. I have to look at the problem, I have to determine exactly whwere wer are and what we’re doing about it,” he said, noting “it’s not something on the radar so far.”

Contributing: Reporter Lisa Donovan



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