The general public may think of shoplifting as an act committed by a single individual. Large retailers in Minnesota like Target, Best Buy and Cub Foods are experiencing a sophisticated form of shoplifting operated by large groups of shoplifters that resell the stolen merchandise online. In reaction, large retailers in Minnesota want theft laws updated to reflect the new nature of organized shoplifting.
While ordinary shoplifting is still the most common crime retailers deal with, the biggest losses come from organized theft rings. Describing the sophisticated theft rings, Target’s vice president of asset protections says, “It’s almost like our business, in reverse.” The theft rings steal goods popular with consumers that have a high resale value like iPods, over-the-counter drugs or ink-cartridges. Once stolen the goods are sold over the internet. Every year Cub Foods stores in the Twin Cities lose between $2 million to $5 million to organized theft rings.
Theft rings do not implement advanced tactics in obtaining their goods. Often, items are pulled from store shelves and individuals run to a car waiting outside. While the act of stealing goods is not advanced, the organization and advanced work before a theft is sophisticated. The theft organizations operate in layers and have a minimum of six layers of individuals between the group ringleader and those who steal also known as “boosters.” The layers between the group leader and the boosters create a case that is hard to prosecute all the way to the top.
Ringleaders issue orders to boosters on the ground and when an order is put out shoplifting groups use teamwork and knowledge of the area and area stores to accomplish the order. The shoplifters will map out stores with the goods along major highways and will have details on staffing levels and how individual stores protect merchandise. Finally, shoplifting groups use their knowledge of the law to avoid serious legal consequences.
Shoplifters keep their takings below $5,000 per store to avoid felony prosecution. To keep up with the times, Minnesota retailers support a proposed federal law that would aggregate theft totals from multiple stores.
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Organized rings of professional shoplifters become growing menace for US retailers,” Tom Webb, 4/18/11