COPS reckon “there’s something more going on” amid spiralling shoplifting complaints.
Stealing goods to sell to other people is “career criminal activity” and a serious threat to businesses, warn anti-theft campaigners.
Former police investigator Charlie Anderson told Twin Cities that two decades ago, while chasing up shoplifting offenses, he determined that “there’s something else going on here” after realizing the huge danger posed by organized retail theft.
Apart from seriously hitting stores’ bottom line, and putting some under threat of closure, thugs involved in these thefts have also wounded or even killed security guards trying to apprehend them.
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Anderson works as a St. Paul police commander, and he is on military leave as a Minnesota Army National Guard military intelligence officer.
He explained that he and other investigators discovered how organized retail crime gangsters had created a so-called “customer base” using social media and “fulfilling orders” to steal.
15 YEARS’ JAIL
“State or national crews” also use fraudulent bank or gift cards to snap up large quantities of merchandise and resell it, he added.
And whereas previously, shoplifters would scarper if challenged by a store worker or security guard, “now what you see is a willingness to square off, threaten violence or use violence,” Anderson warned.
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His comments came after Minnesota lawmakers passed a bill to tackle shop crime, with Gov. Tim Walz signing the organized retail crime (ORC) definition bill which came into effect in August.
It penalizes criminals involved in organized retail theft – those who have worked with at least one other person in “a retail theft enterprise” involving multiple retail thefts over a six-month period.
If stolen merchandise exceeds $5,000, those convicted could be jailed for up to 15 years, rather than 10 years, said Twin Cities.
Bruce Nustad, Minnesota Retailers Association president, explained: “It separates a petty theft or a theft of necessity, a mom who steals baby formula, from career criminal activity in our laws.”
Anderson told CBS News: “We are overdue for a law like this in Minnesota.”
He added: “Organized retail crime is really stealing merchandise, oftentimes from a store, and then reselling it on the marketplace.
“Anybody that knows organized retail crime knows that ORC criminals are involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, firearms, gang activity. They go hand-in-hand.”
Anderson founded the Minnesota Organized Retail Crime Association (MNORCA), which hailed the law as a “significant development to address the growing issue of organized retail crime in Minnesota.”
Fox9 reported that “Minnesota saw a rash of thefts in November 2021, as groups of people would raid big box stores, like Best Buy, en masse.”
News agency Thomson Reuters said in September: “Retailers reported a startling 26.5 per cent surge in ORC incidents since the post-pandemic uptick in retail theft.
“To put that into perspective, Target reported an inventory loss of $500 million for 2023.
“And this is not just a financial concern — the human cost is also mounting.
“A significant 80 per cent of retailers surveyed highlighted a rise in violence and aggression associated with ORC incidents over the past year.”
Tragic incidents include an alleged shoplifter and a grocery store security guard dying last November, after the two exchanged gunfire at a grocery store in Maryland, reported Fox News.
Retailers across the U.S. have been taking extreme measures to combat the growing theft problem.
Just two months ago, Target made the shocking announcement that it would shutter nine stores in major cities due to unprecedented crime and theft.
These include closures in New York City, Seattle, and Portland, after Target CEO Brian Cornell warned that historically high crime rates could force other execs to make tough decisions.
“We cannot continue operating these stores because theft and organized retail crime are threatening the safety of our team and guests, and contributing to unsustainable business performance,” Target said in a news release.
“We know that our stores serve an important role in their communities, but we can only be successful if the working and shopping environment is safe for all.”
Target had added increased security and anti-theft tools before it decided to close the stores.
“We usually just have one entrance in our stores, we tend to have less self-checkout, and we have a very high digital penetration at 33%,” she said, referring to digital sales.
The U.S. Sun has contacted both Target and Best Buy for further comment on Minnesota’s new law.
Since 2022, at least nine states have passed laws to impose harsher penalties for organized retail crime offenses, said CNBC.
HOW ORC GANGS WORK
ORC rings steal products for profit.
Two or more people have distinct roles in these gangs, said Thomson Reuters:
- BOOSTERS, who steal merchandise from retail stores, often targeting easily re-saleable products such perfume, cosmetics, toiletries, and power tools
- FENCES buy stolen goods and resell them, which is done at online marketplaces or at a physical location such as a flea market
- ORGANIZERS – bosses who lead the ring by connecting individuals, deciding which products to steal, and give operational details to commit the thefts. Not surprisingly, this role is the most insulated and the hardest to catch.
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