Retail theft schemes are increasing in the Carolinas, and they’re becoming more sophisticated. According to local law enforcement, current retail theft goes far beyond shoplifting, involving complex schemes and organized efforts by people who convert illegally obtained merchandise or cash into financial gain by theft or fraud.
In response, the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) and local law enforcement agencies have formed the Carolinas Organized Retail Crime Alliance (CORCA), a coalition of law enforcement and retail loss prevention professionals in North and South Carolina aimed at combating the rise of retail theft crime.
“Organized retail crime costs the retail industry nearly $30 billion annually in the United States,” said NCRMA President Andy Ellen. “These losses drive up costs for retailers which then get passed along to consumers. The new CORCA is vitally needed to provide important education and to serve as a resource link for retailers and law enforcement in the effort to combat this crime.”
Added Detective Scott Womack of the Raleigh Police Department, “Return fraud and identity theft/credit card fraud are both prevalent in Organized Retail Crime (ORC) of which many are unaware. This costs the retail industry tremendous losses, victimizes the customer and results in higher pricing for all. Many ORC offenders are career criminals with a history of violence. ORC activities often fuel other criminal activities such as drug abuse, criminal street gang activity and even terrorism. Though ORC is nothing new, it continues to evolve as a type of crime that impacts every area of our state and nation.”
The CORCA Alliance plans to promote a retail theft database CORCA.org, developed in partnership with Alan Buck, Bed, Bath and Beyond’s area loss prevention manager, and Detective Shawn Blee of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. Created nearly two years ago to track theft and criminal activity impacting businesses on a real-time basis, the site currently has more than 500 retail and law enforcement users who post valuable information about crimes and criminals and help to prevent others from being victimized.
CORCA plans to work with the retail industry and law enforcement agencies in the Carolinas to spread the word about the database and encourage new users.
“The alliance will help us build on the success that CORCA.org has achieved and help us proactively combat the threat of organized retail crime in the Carolinas,” said Womack. “Since the launch of the database website, we’ve seen an increase in retailer-to-retailer communications and an increased focus on collaboration between retailers and law enforcement.”
Ellen said, “With organized retail crime accounting for more than double that of other property crimes such as robbery, larceny, burglary and auto thefts combined, the gravity of the losses attributed to ORC operations have grown significantly. The time is now to work together to put an end to this type of organized crime.”
The NCRMA and its foundation, the Retail Consumer Alliance Foundation (RCA), have assumed financial responsibility, daily oversight and management of the CORCA.org website, which will allow NCRMA to introduce the website to the retail industry for statewide use. The alliance is membership based with all law enforcement participation free of charge. It will meet quarterly to provide insight and oversight of CORCA.org, plan an annual convention and provide education. NCRMA’s professional staff will provide oversight of all CORCA operations, meeting preparations, planning and accounting.