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    Retail Trade Groups Launch Crime Database with FBI's Endorsement

    WASHINGTON -- In answer to an alarming rise in organized retail crime, the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association have joined forces, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to launch the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), a secure national database that will allow retailers to share information through a unique Web-based interface.

    WASHINGTON -- In answer to an alarming rise in organized retail crime, the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association have joined forces, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, to launch the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), a secure national database that will allow retailers to share information through a unique Web-based interface.

    The partners said with LERPnet, retailers and law enforcement will be able to fight back against illegal activity including organized retail crime, burglaries, robberies, counterfeiting, and online auction fraud. The database will launch on April 9.

    The new system uses the same platform as NRF's Retail Loss Prevention Intelligence Network (RLPIN), a similar tool introduced to the industry in 2005, but includes new information from a beta test conducted by RILA, NRF spokesman Scott Krugman told Progressive Grocer.

    Joseph LaRocca, NRF's v.p. of loss prevention, noted in a statement the value of such a system. "Organized theft rings steal billions of dollars of merchandise every year, which victimizes retailers, endangers the safety of retail employees, and raises the price of consumer goods," he noted. "With this system, retailers are banding together with law enforcement to send a clear message to criminals: 'We will not tolerate your behavior and we will stop you.'"

    NRF said LERPnet is expected to become the national standard for sharing retail crime information in a secure and confidential manner, giving companies and law enforcement the ability to collaborate like never before. For more than two years, an extraordinary group of retailers, law enforcement, data privacy specialists and technology experts have combined resources and talent to create the technology platform.

    "LERPnet allows retailers and the law enforcement community to create a true public/private partnership to address significant criminal activity that not only costs consumers and retailer's billons of dollars, but causes a significant life safety issue," said Tim O'Connor, RILA v.p. of asset protection. "LERPnet is a proactive and an analytical tool that allows retailers to collaborate with each other as well as law enforcement officials; we can better protect our stores, our brands, our employees, and most importantly, our customers."

    With LERPnet, retailers will be able to communicate with other companies and law enforcement about crimes occurring in their stores. Companies can report the theft and include information about suspects, getaway vehicles, and identification numbers of stolen products. In their report, retailers can also include photos and video footage to assist in the detention of and prosecution of criminals.

    Because LERPnet allows retailers to share information with law enforcement agencies nationwide, detectives will have the opportunity of researching crimes in neighboring cities, counties, and states.

    FBI supervisory special agent Brian Nadeau, program manager for the FBI's Organized Retail Theft program, called LERPnet "a vision of the retail community that will help solve a $30 billion a year problem. This database will create a stronger partnership between retailers and law enforcement to tackle a growing problem and disrupt criminal organizations."

    The system, programmed by ABC Virtual of West Des Moines, Iowa, uses a secure Web interface for data entry, viewing, and queries of incidents. Data can be imported from virtually any database, and LERPnet already links to case management software programs such as LPSoftware of Palos Hills, Illinois.

    Additionally, the system allows retailers to set e-mail alerts to be notified of retail crimes in their area, search through reported incidents, or flag and monitor the sale of merchandise available on online auction sites.

    To date, dozens of retailers ranging from coffee shops to major department stores are using LERPnet to track criminal activities with dozens more waiting to be trained on the system, the partners said. This summer, law enforcement personnel will be able to access LERPnet through Law Enforcement Online (www.LEO.gov).

    More information is available at www.lerpnet.com.

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