In January, the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act of 2023 was introduced in the U.S. Senate. It establishes a Center to Combat Organized Retail Crime at Homeland Security Investigations. The legislation essentially makes organized retail crime a federal offense and enables retailers to turn to federal law enforcement agencies for help.
It also allows retailers to coordinate and collaborate organized retail theft investigations with the newly created Homeland Security organization. Until that time, retailers like Victoria’s Secret & Co. have created alternative approaches to dealing with their crime problems.
Learn more about the current status of organized retail crime in the retail industry and updates on prevention.
On Tuesday at NRF PROTECT, members of the asset protection team from Victoria’s Secret explained the company’s approach to combating organized retail crime without a dedicated ORC team. Referring to NRF’s most recent Retail Security Survey, which showed that ORC activity increased by more than 25% in 2021, Senior Vice President for Asset Protection John Talamo said ORC has increased for Victoria’s Secret as well.
“We experienced a rapid growth of ORC during the 1990s,” Talamo said, “and in the 2000s we started seeing the emergence of ORC-specific teams. In 2023, it’s everywhere.”
But despite that increase across the board — including at its flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York and other area locations — the company has no dedicated ORC team in New York (or anywhere else) and no plans to create one, “because combating ORC is every AP team member’s job,” Talamo said.
“There’s no question that ORC is a significant component of the shrinkage we experience,” he said. “However, there are some significant advantages to not having a team.”
Those advantages include fewer internal silos; the ability to manage more cases; a greater emphasis on the development of talent; and an expanded relationship with local law enforcement, in this case meaning the New York Police Department, troopers from New York and surrounding areas, and locally assigned FBI agents.
There’s also an expanded relationship with technology. One component is video surveillance; recording people who are stealing is a potential deterrent. Another is RFID; it confirms whether an item was purchased or not and has reduced the time to conclude fence investigations from approximately 12 months to two weeks.
To maintain effective and productive relationships with law enforcement, New York Area Asset Protection Manager Tony White recommended that retail asset protection staffers remain in touch with their local business improvement district and ORC associations: Meet with them, be responsive to their requests and recognize their work.
“You need accurate and timely intelligence, rapid deployment and effective tactics,” Talamo said — all possible without the need for a separate ORC department.
In closing, Rodriguez and her colleagues recommended that retailers follow cases all the way to conviction and sentencing. “We call it ‘out of business value’ — if they’re in jail, they can’t steal from you.”