Shoplifting On The Rise

The United States is experiencing a plague.

Despite cutting-edge technology and a shift to a gentler approach to reducing it, shoplifting is on the rise. One in 11 Americans is a shoplifter. If that staggering number isn’t enough, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, businesses lose $35 million daily.

Think it doesn’t have anything to do with employees? Well, here’s another number. Employee theft is now a whopping 47 percent – that’s almost half of the employees. Whether it’s outright pilfering something that belongs to the business, or making extra hamburgers for friends, stealing is stealing – and it’s costly for companies. According to the University of Florida’s study on theft, 10 percent of the people will never steal, while 10 percent definitely will; 80 percent will steal if under the right circumstance.

As the years have progressed and theft has risen, those who are warring against the epidemic have changed tactics. The area of the business called “security” manned with ex-police and ex-military, now has a nicer ring to it – “loss prevention.” Mostly due to lawsuits, gone are the days of grabbing a suspected merchandise nabber and calling the cops. A more psychological approach to questioning the suspect seems to bring out even more information about the would-be criminal. Technology has also become more cutting edge and sneaky.

But the criminals are sneaky too. It’s a tit-for-tat war revolving around free money, especially during this nation’s economic crisis. The general plan is the thief steals the items and sells them on such places as eBay, flea markets and second-hand stores. Criminals are also becoming bolder in stealing an item, returning it to get a gift card and then selling the card. Price tag switching is also on the rise.

Now, loss prevention experts and business CEOs have another enemy on the warfront. Organized crime has stepped in to become a worthy opponent, stealing big ticket items as well as popular, small, pricey things. Shoplifting by organized crime is on the rise in the past three years. The organized crime ring goes out in teams, scouts out stores and makes their move. Laundry detergent, allergy medicine, energy drinks and baby formula are some of the most shoplifted merchandise.

Targeted items run anywhere from drug stores and specialty shops to grocery and major department stores, according to the FBI. Many of the organizations are Asian groups from California, South American and Mexican groups, and Cuban criminal groups from South Florida. The FBI works with the local, state and federal law enforcement and then exchanging information with seven theft forces located in Miami, El Paso, Memphis, New York and Chicago. The FBI also works closely with the retail industry. For example, the FBI helped create the non-profit Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network, which is a database that retailers use to input their theft cases. The FBI then compiles the data, revealing patterns of organized crime theft.

According to the National Retail Federation’s 9th Annual Organized Crime Retail Survey, 93.5 percent of retailers report being a victim of organized retail crime. Ninety percent of those surveyed say they have been a victim in the last three years.

The best way to thwart shoplifting and not become a causality of the rising theft plague is to have the best security plan in place and for business leaders to be aware of trends.