Walmart's Take On ORC
By Erin Harris, associate editor
According to the NRF, of the 125 retail companies surveyed for the organization’s eighth annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Survey, a record-setting 96% say their company has been the victim of organized retail crime in the past year, up from 94.5% last year. Another 87.7% say ORC activity in the United States has grown over the past three years. Indeed, the effects of ORC are felt by everyone. Retailers must spend time and resources to investigate the incident, it means higher prices for American consumers, and it means less sales tax revenue for state and local governments. In some cases, organized retail crimes result in violence. Even as retailers continue to make great strides in their effort to combat ORC, more work needs to be done. I caught up with Joseph Harris, asset protection manager at Walmart to get his take on ORC and what retailers of all sizes can do to reduce the risk of an ORC attack.
According to Harris, ORC groups are comprised of people from all walks of life. “These groups are made up of people from Beverly Hills to poverty-stricken areas around the country,” he says. “But, they have one thing in common — they want to get the most out of doing very little.” Harris says some ORC groups conduct their crimes close to interstate highways giving them quick access to several stores within close proximity. The groups can also vary in number of people. “I’ve seen groups of 2 to 3 people, 4 to 5 people, or up to as many as 14 people,” says Harris. “Age isn’t a given either, as I’ve seen ORC rings that include people from their mid-20s to mid-50s.”
Harris describes some of the tell-tale signs of a real-time ORC attack. “Criminals will line the shopping cart with clothing so it’s difficult to see inside,” explains Harris. “Then they’ll fill the inner portion with merchandise such as infant formula, electronics, beauty products, or any other merchandise considered to be in high demand. In addition, starting with apparel enables them to be ‘off the grid’ for some amount of time, as most apparel sections do not have cameras due to privacy policies.” ORC groups aren’t only in search of merchandise. Some commit financial fraud. When committing financial fraud (e.g. loading and reloading prepaid cards with various amounts of money), criminals will often dress in the associate’s uniform of that particular retailer. For example, the criminal may attempt to have another associate load the prepaid card for a customer, claiming that his register isn’t working properly.
He states that while big box retailers are at the greatest risk, the risk of an ORC attack certainly exists for SMRs. “Grocers and smaller business units need to be just as aware of ORC risks and should have protocols in place should an attack take place,” states Harris. “Loss prevention must work side-by-side with the police department. Work closely with them and form a symbiotic relationship whereby accurate police reports can be created. Craft your asset protection alerts, or BOLO (Be On The Lookout) reports in a timely manner, as these reports alert other stores in your region of the incident. Be sure that other stores within your area know that an ORC raid has occurred. And that message should be sent to your competitors, too. We all have competitors, but we are all working together toward the common goals of improving our economy and reducing ORC.”
Some states, such as Colorado and California, have locally-affiliated organizations dedicated to preventing ORC (COORCA [Colorado ORC Alliance] and LAAORCA [Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crimes Association]). These organizations are typically formed and operated by a core group of organized retail crimes loss prevention managers with the assistance of the police department officials. “These groups tend to have meetings or conferences once per quarter to reduce crime and build awareness,” states Harris. “Some police departments have retail detectives on staff. It makes their jobs much easier to get together with local business and retailers in these forums so they can get their message out.”
Finally, Harris urges retailers to train your staffs on how to properly use LP technology. “Providing your staff with the proper training — and supporting written documentation — on your LP technologies is absolutely critical,” says Harris. “When your staff is on the same page on how to use the technologies, your LP community will be more effective on combating ORC.”
What is your organization doing to prevent ORC? Share your thoughts with us.