Chicago Ranks High for Organized Retail Theft

Second City listed third in cities with the most organized criminal activity

By Victoria Coleman
|  Tuesday, Jun 5, 2012  |  Updated 7:09 PM CDT
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National Retail Association survey shows 96 percent of 125 companies had been victims of organized retail crime over the past year, an increase from 2010.

National Retail Association survey shows 96 percent of 125 companies had been victims of organized retail crime over the past year, an increase from 2010.

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Organized retail crime is on the rise across the United States, and Chicago is apparently no exception.

The Windy City ranked third worst for retail theft, according to a report released Tuesday by the Washington, D.C-based National Retail Association.

A survey found that 96 percent of 125 companies had been victims of organized retail crime over the past year, an increase from 2010.

Retailers said thieves have taken to making in-store returns of stolen merchandise (refunds or exchanges) or fraudulently using gift cards. The report also said that more suspected criminals are becoming violent once apprehended.

The Chicago Police Department is part of a task force aimed at organized retail theft. Sgt. Ed Wodnicki suggests retailers work closely with law enforcement and amplify their loss prevention tools.

"Video is critical. Whenever we've got video, that helps us dramatically because that helps us in our criminal prosecution," he said.

So far, surveyed retailers said 2012 has brought new organized retail crime trends, like increased smash and grab incidents, and street gang theft collusion that may involve social media.

Some Chicago retailers were impacted in 2011 when 11 teens used Twitter to organize a mass theft of three Magnificent Mile retailers. They stole at least $5,000 in merchandise and were charged as juveniles.

But while the trend of organized retail thefts is on the rise, companies believe law enforcement agencies are aware and understand the severity and complexity of organized retail crime, the report said.

Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy said Tuesday that he hadn't yet looked at the National Retail Association's report but intended to give it some attention.

"Retail theft is something that police departments are probably going to struggle to deal with," he said.

"There's street level crime and there's crime that happens indoors. For instance, domestic violence is something that's more difficult to get inside of because it's happening, generally, behind closed doors. [It's the] Same issue with retail theft," he said.

Atlanta and the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area ranked higher than Chicago on the NRA's list. Others cities include Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles/Orange County, Calif., New York /Northern N.J., Miami, Phoenix and San Francisco/Oakland, Calif.

Chart: ORC 2012 - How Retailers Have Been Impacted by ORC

Survey results from the National Retail Federation's 7th annual Organized Retail Crime Survey. For more information, visit www.nrf.com/organizedretailcrime.
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ORC 2012 - How Retailers Have Been Impacted by ORC
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