The footage of snatching proves shocking even in a place like Saint-Joseph where this brazen type of crime did not take place.
But retail theft happens on a regular basis, and it’s not always a kid who steals a gumball. The retail industry and law enforcement are increasingly aware of what is known as organized retail crime. It doesn’t necessarily involve the Mafia, but it usually features groups going to stores to buy high-end items and then trying to resell them, often using online marketplaces that allow anonymity.
“Retail thefts are ringing, they go by here quite often,” said Sgt. Roy Hoskins with the St. Joseph Police Department. “We are on a major corridor between Omaha and Kansas City. Sometimes they come here because they think a city our size will be an easier target. And this is not necessarily the case.
Hoskins, who works in crime prevention, said Saint Joseph is not as targeted as big cities. Overall, St. Joseph Police reported 2,278 thefts in 2021, a decrease of 21% from the previous year. There was no breakdown on the number of thefts from businesses, but police officials said shoplifting cases were down in 2021.
But retail managers aren’t always worried about the number of thefts. They worry about the amount of the loss.
A National Retail Federation investigation found that organized retail crime now costs stores an average of $ 700,000 per $ 1 billion in sales. A retailer’s average loss per shoplifting incident fell from $ 270 in 2019 to $ 461 in 2020, according to the survey. About half of retailers reported an average loss of $ 1,000, according to the NRF.
Retailers are trying to counter the trend with security, locking down high-end items and using technologies like GPS tracking and alarm beacons. But Tony Sheppard, director of loss prevention solutions for ThinkLP, said the trend continues to grow due to the ease of reselling stolen items online.
“There was more demand for products in the online marketplace and therefore more demand for stolen products,” Sheppard said in a National Retail Federation podcast. In addition to electronics, organized thief gangs tend to target clothing, laundry detergents, designer handbags, allergy drugs, razors, high-end liquor and pain relievers, according to the retail federation.
In Missouri, a state official filed legislation to define organized retail crime and toughen penalties for those who steal from multiple stores.
“This recognizes the fact that there are groups of people who do this in an organized manner,” said Representative Lane Roberts, R-Joplin. “It’s a big, big problem. Retail theft is a very costly crime. It has a big impact on the economy.
Under Bill 2108, a person engaged in organized retail theft would be liable to a Class C or Class B crime, depending on the dollar amount of the stolen merchandise. Roberts, a former Joplin Police Chief, also wants greater accountability for online platforms that can be used to resell stolen items.
His proposal would require online marketplaces to verify certain information with high-volume third-party sellers. This may include banking information, photo ID or physical address, phone number, or email account.
Roberts anticipates some hindsight, but he thinks it’s the best way to tackle the problem. A comparison could be made with a pawnshop, who has a legal responsibility to work with the police and to avoid selling stolen items.
“I struggled with the idea,” said Roberts. “There is a certain level of responsibility.
Hoskins, in St. Joseph, said he supported tougher action against shoplifting. It is a crime that can go unnoticed, but it always has an impact on businesses and law enforcement resources.
“There are so many different motivations behind this,” he said. “Some people steal food to support their families. Some do it as an impulsive thing, as a thrill maybe. Some do it for resale. Retail crime, shoplifting, has always been around and probably always will be. “