When we hear the term “organized crime,” we typically picture Tony Soprano puffing a cigar, Marlon Brando intimidating everybody in The Godfather, or Joe Pesci dying a gruesome death in Casino.
But life isn’t a movie. And in reality, most organized crime is actually pretty boring, lacking the grit and glamor that Hollywood consistently portrays.
Take organized retail crime (ORC), for example. It’s costing US retailers $30B annually, and is, in many ways, just glorified shoplifting.
How this dull, yet effective organized crime strain works
According to the National Retail Federation, ORC includes everything from smash-and-grabs to counterfeit products to inside jobs involving employees.
And recently, there’s been a surge in large, organized groups of shoplifters targeting specific stores and stealing mass amounts of easily concealed items like pregnancy tests, baby formula, and teeth-whitening strips — then selling them on sites like eBay and Craigslist.
Return fraud’s a big problem, too
This process typically involves creating fake receipts for the stolen goods (Leo forged checks in Catch Me If You Can using a model airplane and a bathtub, so how hard can it be?!), then returning them for cash.
“They have this down to a science,” says one National Retail Federation executive. “The insult is that the retailer has stuff stolen from them and then they have to buy it back.”
Oh, and just in case you’re sitting there shedding zero tears for the Targets of the world — this affects all of us.
Since large-scale shoplifting can drive up prices for both the manufacturer and retailer, the US loses roughly $1.6B in sales tax revenue per year (money that could be spent on parks and schools) thanks to ORC.
Prosecutors aren’t exactly helping…
The FBI refuses to look into any ORC case involving less than $150k, making it extremely difficult for local law enforcement to build a case to bring to them.
Also, many states have decriminalized non-violent crimes, meaning these shoplifters face surprisingly short sentences if any at all. So we’re just going to have to rely on this guy to roundhouse kick them in the face before they get away.