In NRF’s ninth annual Organized Retail Crime (ORC) survey, eight in 10 respondents said ORC has increased in the past three years, and 90 percent said they have been victims of it. And with ORC on the rise, more retailers and law enforcement are joining forces to fight it. Across the country, organized retail crime associations are offering a way for retailers and law enforcement agencies to team up and share information. Over a secure website, members can share things like surveillance video and suspect descriptions with other retailers and law enforcement officers, making it easier to connect the dots and catch criminals who are targeting multiple retail establishments.
With our Loss Prevention Conference coming up next week, we wanted to highlight the ways in which retailers are working together with law enforcement to combat ORC, so we spoke with Captain Bill Williams of the Los Angeles Police Department Commercial Crimes Division. Williams was an integral part of forming the Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crimes Association (LAAORCA) in 2009, after retailers approached the department about the need for greater collaboration. Since then, the association has become a model for many other ORC associations across the country.
Read on to learn more about how this association helps retailers apprehend ORC suspects and what retailers can do to strengthen partnerships with their local law enforcement agencies.
What are the key elements of your ORC association that have made it successful?
It’s all about developing relationships and partnerships between the public and private sectors to address the ORC issue. One of the ways we do that is by using our website as tool to share information. Through our website, retailers and law enforcement officers can get instant updates about ORC incidents. We also have a general meeting every six weeks for the entire LA area, and an annual conference, which attracted just about 1,000 people this year. With LAAORCA, we believe in building partnerships, providing education and arresting suspects. This is all supported by the chief of police, district attorney and city attorney, and we’re also working with other ORC associations around the area.
What happens at a general meeting?
The meetings are very structured. We have a few people make a short presentation about an issue, and then we discuss it as a body. We have an average of 60 to 100 law enforcement and retailers at the meetings. Sometimes, there’s a retailer or law enforcement officer there who can provide information for the person with the problem. And I’ve seen multiple times where someone at a meeting knew of the suspects, so they get together afterward, and that’s led to some arrests. So the information exchange is great. We also provide some training and bring in topical speakers at the meeting, and we always follow up on the issues discussed at the previous meeting, so we get some closure on those.
Can you share an example of a success story?
One comes to mind. We had a series of burglaries that were going on in LA and elsewhere, and we found out that the suspects were going to a different state. Of course, my people couldn’t go there, but we shared that information and a retailer was able to follow them. The interesting thing was that retailer who followed them wasn’t even one of the retailers that the product was being stolen from, but they were able to provide information to help the investigation. They also observed these suspects burglarize in the other state. We got warrants, and when the suspects came back, we were able to take those people into custody. And that happened because of a partnership between the LAPD and three or four retailers that were working together.
In another instance, my cargo theft people were doing an investigation and came across a large quantity of cosmetics. We determined whose it was, and because we had a partnership and relationship with that company, we knew who to call, and it turned out that we recovered several million dollars worth of product that they didn’t know was stolen yet. So because of the partnership and existing relationships, we were able to connect the dots and return that product to them.
What can retailers do to strengthen their relationships with law enforcement?
Retailers need to go out and introduce themselves to local law enforcement and federal law enforcement. Because it’s human nature—if you don’t have a relationship and trust, when you walk in you’ll have a harder time working together, so you really need to get to know your local station police. And if your local station doesn’t think property crime or retail crime is a priority, then go to the management. The origin of LAAORCA came from our former chief being approached by retailers with some problems they were having.
The LAPD is one of more than 20 law enforcement agencies in the Fusion Center at NRF’s LP Conference next week. What are you most looking forward to about that event?
I’d like for people to come in and tell me the concerns they have. I’d like to get to know more people who are involved in retail LP and really establish good relationships. I also want to learn some things from them and get some new ideas. I think some retailers come in because they want to see who the police department is, but as law enforcement, we also want to get to know retailers because we can learn from them, too. Partnerships and good relationships are the key to fighting the scourge of ORC.
The LAPD and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies will be available in the Fusion Center at NRF’s Loss Prevention Conference, June 12-14 at the San Diego Convention Center. Retailers and law enforcement professionals can attend the exhibition hall and Fusion Center at no charge.