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WASHINGTON -- The Food Marketing Institute (FMI), NACDS, and the National Retail Federation expressed their support yesterday as the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security for spotlighted the national problem of organized retail crime at a hearing. The trade groups are pushing for a law to make it a federal felony for all of the members of the gangs involved.
"Organized retail crime is one of the most serious threats we face today," said FMI president and c.e.o. Tim Hammonds in a statement. "These gangs of thieves steal up to $30 billion in merchandise a year. They endanger public health by adulterating products such as infant formula and cold medicines and selling them to unsuspecting consumer, often through illegitimate retail outlets. Law enforcement experts increasingly believe that some of the money earned through this illicit activity helps fund international terrorism."
"Too often," he added, "the gang members who are apprehended are charged with petty shoplifting misdemeanors and receive minimal fines and probation or little jail time. Complicit wholesalers, flea market operators, pawn shops, and Internet auctioneers cannot be easily prosecuted. A law recognizing organized retail crime under the U.S. Criminal Code would help reduce the billions in retail store losses and, most important, protect the safety of consumers."
Brad Brekke, v.p. of assets protection for NACDS member Target Corp., testified on behalf of the Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime, of which FMI is a leading member, before the subcommittee. He discussed the nature of retail crime, industry efforts to combat such crime, and the role of online auction sites in fueling dramatic growth in ORC.
Karl F. Langhorst, director of loss prevention for Randalls/Tom Thumb Food and Pharmacy, also testified on behalf of the coalition.
Currently, in many states, ORC is looked upon as petty shoplifting and usually treated as a misdemeanor if a prosecution takes place, according to the Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime.
Coalition members include suppliers, and retailers such as Ahold, USA, Inc.; Food Lion, LLC; Giant Food, LLC; Giant Food Stores, LLC; Publix Super Markets, Inc.; Safeway Inc.; the Stop & Shop Supermarket Co.; Target Corp.; Tops Markets, LLC; and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
The National Retail Federation issued a supportive statement yesterday as well. "This hearing shows that Congress recognizes the seriousness of organized retail crime and is ready to do something about it," NRF v.p. for loss prevention Joseph LaRocca said. "Lawmakers are hearing firsthand from merchants the magnitude of these crimes and how they are driving up costs for consumers and posing a health and safety risk for the public. We hope that today*s discussion will be followed soon by the introduction and passage of legislation to put those who commit organized retail crime behind bars."