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Retail Theft on the Rise: Organized Crime Increasingly Violent

Still from the 2001 film <b>Sugar &amp; Spice</b>
Still from the 2001 film Sugar & Spice

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"Smash and grab activity significantly increased" and "criminals are getting more violent, more bold," say police reports. Are they talking about gang activity on the wrong side of the tracks? Nope, they're talking about crimes of fashion.

According to a National Retail Federation survey, mass merchandise theft by organized groups is on the rise in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Houston, and Miami. While the number of the merchants affected has decreased—from 92.2% to 89.5%—about 60% of retailers hit say that criminal activity has increased.

Joe LaRocca, the retail federation's senior asset protection adviser, say that cops recently busted a large, organized gang that was targeting Levi's—he told WWD that the gang used "aggressive tactics" to "intimidate store employees."

This translates into beefed-up retail spending on security:

Merchants are starting to invest more time and resources on efforts to curb crime in their stores and distribution centers. More than 48 percent of retailers said they are allocating additional resources to deal with organized retail crime, up from 41.8 percent last year.

In addition, 62.5 percent of the respondents said they had “some success” in identifying stolen merchandise at fencing locations such as pawn shops and temporary stores, and 66.1 percent said they identified stolen merchandise through e-fencing operations online.

Retailers have poured thousands of dollars into lobbying lawmakers and the Obama administration for help in cracking down on organized retail crime.

Currently, there are three bills on the House and Senate floors aiming to curtail and confront retail crimes by either "strengthening the federal criminal code" or "new civil fines," reports WWD, who also reports that flea markets and online auction sites are often used to fence the contraband.
· Retail criminals turn brazen [WWD]