Local retailers battle organized crime rings
In preparation for the high volume holiday shopping season, local retailers are stepping up efforts to combat organized theft rings responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses each year.According to the National Retail Federation, organized retail crime accounts for up to $30 billion in losses each year and is climbing. Of the 129 retail companies NRF surveyed this year, 95 percent said they have been the victim of organized retail crime in the past 12 months, up five percent from last year.Locally, police estimate that area retailers could Pandora Bracelet be losing up to $8,000 every day. That estimate is based on the number of arrests local police are making and “the assumption that for every one we catch, there are 10 more out there,” said Maj. John DiPietro, Miami Twp. deputy police chief. Miami Twp. police work closely with the Dayton Mall and merchants along the Ohio 725 corridor to track repeat offenders and DiPietro said organized theft is an increasing problem.In NRF’s 2011 report, Joseph LaRocca, senior adviser of asset protection, said the weak economy has lead consumers to seek out bargains. “Organized retail crime groups capitalized on that desperation,” he said.”We are not just talking about shoplifting,” said Bob Bowman, Perry Twp. chief of police, who also serves as security director at The Greene. “We are talking about major organized crime.”Highly sophisticated gangs of boosters are using everything from counterfeit credit cards re programmed with stripped numbers to manufactured receipts to shopping bags and purses fitted with sensor blocking foil lining in order to steal in demand goods that can be resold on the secondary market. Credit card strippers or “skimmers” are devices that can be handheld or installed at ATMs or gas stations to copy a number and create a fake card.Organized retail gangs will often hit multiple locations in one day, walking away with as much as $50,000 worth of merchandise and gift cards that then can be resold online or at flea markets, pawn shops or even back to legitimate retailers who unknowingly buy stolen goods.According to NRF’s report, criminals who physically fence stolen items get a return of about 30 percent of the item’s retail value. Those who e Fence, selling stolen items on eBay or other websites, can get as much at 70 percent.A group of retailers from the Miami Valley’s largest shopping centers got a crash course Friday in some of the newest techniques and technologies in use by crime rings. Miami Twp. police hosted the I 675 corridor crime symposium.Among the items on display was a stroller confiscated at a local Macy’s department store. A group of women from Cincinnati were caught using the stroller to conceal stolen items. They placed items inside foiled lined blankets which were piled up to look like a child was underneath.In March, Jimiona Dillard was apprehended at The Greene with $4,000 worth of merchandise she allegedly stole using lined booster bags.”When we pull one of those bags off of someone, that tells us there is more in the car we need to look at,” DiPietro said. But police were not able to search Dillard’s vehicle because an accomplice had it towed and paid cash to retrieve it.Many of the tools used by retail thieves can be found at hardware stores, such as carpet tack removers which can used to pry off hard tags. Display case keys and sensor removing tools can be bought on eBay. “Many times they don’t have to break into a case because they have the key on them,” said Nicholas Olsen, a loss prevention agent for Gap and Old Navy store Pandora Bracelet s.DiPietro said southwest Ohio is an ideal target for these groups because there are so many shopping centers within a short driving distance.”You could have a group that wou Pandora Bracelet ld start in Columbus on the I 270 loop. then they come to Dayton and hit Fairfield Commons, then The Greene, then the Dayton Mall. then they are just a short drive from the Cincinnati I 275 loop,” he said.Bowman said most shoplifting and theft incidents are misdemeanor offenses, but if detectives can demonstrate an ongoing business based on the thefts, then those involved could be charged with engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, a first degree felony.DiPietro said every shoplifting arrest requires more than an hour of a police officer’s time and a bust of an organized crime ring can easily add up to 40 to 60 man hours. Local governments are also not collecting taxes on stolen merchandise.The retail industry’s losses affect consumer Pandora Bracelet s in the form of higher prices. LaRocca has previously estimated that consumers spend as much as $400 more per household per year to offset losses.