You Can't Beat ORC Without The Cops
By Matt Pillar, chief editor
Pressured by police last week, a pawnshop in Kentucky quit selling gift cards. While the pawn shop associates had no way of knowing, it turns out a number of the gift cards it had acquired were procured by an organized retail crime ring. In a rudimentary scheme, the gang was stealing mass quantities of merchandise, then returning it for store credit gift cards, which it would then sell to pawn shops en masse. The police response was to crack down on the pawnshop, which chose to quit selling cards altogether.
Also last week, an Ohio flea market co-owner found himself behind bars after an investigation and subsequent raid found him guilty of felony corruption charges. In this case, the co-owner was organizing the procurement of stolen goods at his flea market, leveraging a gang of thieves to do the dirty work so he and one of his vendors, also arrested, could fence the merchandise. Investigators pointed to a specific risk to consumers in this case, given that much of the fenced merchandise was over-the-counter medication.
These are two small-fry busts in the grand scheme of the ORC epidemic, but they’re examples of good police work. What we don’t hear about are the details behind the investigation, the part about the victimized retailers’ roles in supplying the cops with information vital to their investigations and arrests.
It’s tough to bust ORC offenders in the act of stealing on your store floors. If it weren’t tough, their crimes wouldn’t cost retailers $40 billion per year. If it were simple, organized retail gangsters wouldn’t have victimized 96% of all retailers last year (NRF). But that initial theft represents just the first in a string of illegal acts typically associated with ORC, acts that reach far beyond the four walls of your store. That’s where collaboration with the cops becomes your duty.
Unfortunately, by their own admission, most resource-constrained police departments place a low priority on ORC. They typically don’t have the tools, data, or expertise to conduct thorough ORC investigations, and, justifiably, violent crime gets the bulk of their attention. That’s why it’s incumbent on retailers, if they’re intent on fighting back, to serve up the ORC case on a silver platter. Tools that enable collaboration among retailers and with law enforcement are critical to the effort. Consider the boon to law enforcement when your agile IP video and case management tools, integrated with item-level inventory data, can easily supply them with time-stamped video of the perpetrator(s), specific quantities of stolen merchandise, and item-level data on that stolen merchandise.
These sorts of tools are collaborative enablers for internal ORC investigators, law enforcement, and peer retailers. They efficiently leverage data that links small ORC incidents like those mentioned above to build larger cases that lead to prosecution. When victimized parties collaborate on open and agile platforms that enable data to be shared, trends to be analyzed, and cases to be built, these small-time busts get bigger and retailers begin to control the ORC menace.
Are the tools sometimes expensive and the collaboration sometimes difficult? Yes. But then, how much money and effort is it worth to solve a $40 billion problem?