Tuesday, January 25, 2022
Retail crime has been rising throughout the US for the past five years, with organized criminal rings targeting stores everywhere from Woonsocket (Rhode Island) to Greensboro (North Carolina) to Grafton (Wisconsin). The National Retail Federation reported that store losses mounted from $453,940 per $1 billion in sales in 2015 to $719,458 in 2020.
The biggest increase over that period happened not during the pandemic but in 2019, when total losses from shoplifting surged to $61 billion, up from $50 billion the previous year. The COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and early 2021 moderated losses, largely because stores were closed or had curtailed operating hours. Now that retailing has resumed, crime has spiked again.
Shoplifting no longer fits its traditional mold as a nonviolent crime perpetrated mostly by teens or substance-abusing adults. Nearly two-thirds of the retailers surveyed by the National Retail Federation said that violence associated with store thefts has risen, led by organized gangs that resell the goods they steal. Like retailers, top law-enforcement officials place some of the blame for the crime surge on a widespread lessening of penalties for shoplifting.