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Three bills introduced in Congress to curtail the activities of organized retail crime (ORC) gangs, which result in an annual loss to merchants of $30 billion in merchandise, are being welcomed by trade industry groups.
U.S. Reps. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) introduced the Organized Retail Crime Act, House Judiciary Committee chairman Bobby Scott (D-Fla.) introduced the E-Fencing Enforcement Act and Senate majority whip Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act. They originally authored all three measures late in the last Congress.
The bills seek to control online criminal commerce, or "e-fencing," by requiring large-volume sellers to identify themselves, provide contact information, and help retailers and police investigate suspicious sales activity.
“The introduction of three bills on the same day by prominent lawmakers shows that Congress is serious about legislating a solution to these costly crimes that threatens the safety of Americans,” said FMI president and CEO Leslie G. Sarasin. "All together, the bills would make organized retail crime a federal felony for all the perpetrators involved -- from the boosters who sweep shelves clean of valuable items to the fences who increasingly resell them on internet auction sites."
Sarasin added that currently, members of the gangs that perpetrate these crimes often "receive minimal fines, probation or jail time," while "complicit wholesalers, flea market operators, pawn shops and Internet auctioneers cannot be easily prosecuted."
As co-chair of the 36-member Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, FMI has long been leading efforts to fight ORC at the state and federal levels.
The Washington-based coalition itself urged the legislative body "to act quickly to give law enforcement the tools it needs to aggressively prosecute these criminals and protect innocent consumers from unsafe or damaged goods."
The Retail Industry Leaders Association also encouraged swift action by Congress. "RILA strongly supports legislation to combat organized retail crime," noted John Emling, SVP, government affairs of the Arlington, Va.-based organization. "This bipartisan effort will provide law enforcement officials the tools they need to stop ORC, bringing federal criminal laws into the 21st century and protecting consumers from unknowingly purchasing fraudulent or unsafe goods."
Organized retail crime is a major problem for food retailers. Over half of retailers (55.8 percent) said that these crimes increased in their stores in 2007, according to FMI's "Supermarket Security and Loss Prevention 2008" report. Companies of all sizes are dedicating more resources to combat the problem, and many large retailers have loss prevention units focusing exclusively on it. Additionally, a recent RILA survey found that ORC criminals are stepping up their activities "at an alarming rate."
Items most likely to be targeted by ORC criminals include baby formula and diabetic test strips.