The Congressional Research Service estimates that the U.S. loses between $15 and $37 billion annually to organized retail crime, and stores across the country reported an increase in large-scale thefts on a number of different items from designer denim and electronics to allergy medicine and infant formula.
“Organized retail crime can be one person, or it can be a group, what their sole intent is to take a number of items of the same type with the sole intent of reselling.”
That’s Joe Williams from the Texas Retailers Association. Williams estimates that in Texas the product worth of items boosted falls between $2.5 billion and $3 billion at retail price.
When those items are boosted, it not only affects retailers but also directly impacts the states.
“If that item is resold in the black market where there is no sales tax charged, then the state loses sales tax revenue on those items that are boosted. We think that number is around 200 million annually.”
Lee Bland is the vice president of loss prevention at Stage Stores, a Houston-based retailer which operates more than 800 department stores in 30 states.
She says that when items are boosted, consumers also bear extra cost at the register.
“What happens is we have to raise our prices to cover our losses from the product that’s stolen in the stores.”
The National Retail Federation ranks Houston as one of the top 10 cities affected by organized retail crime.
Bland believes Houston is a hotbed for theft because of how close it is to the border.
“When we do apprehend ORC groups they’re here illegally. And so what happens is, someone will smuggle them across the border, and in return for being smuggled into the United States they are obligated to be a part of this organize retail theft group for a year or two to pay back their in-transit into the United States.”
To counter crime, Texas retailers have increased surveillance and are improving customer services to make stores less likely to be victims of retail theft.