WASHINGTON — Amid rising thefts and shoplifting, the National Retail Federation has joined with the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement division in a six-month pilot program to combat organized retail crime.
Retailers have battled the problem for years, but the proliferation of criminal gangs that steal large volumes of merchandise from stores and resell it on online auction sites has compelled merchants to seek help from ICE.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates organized criminal activity costs retailers $15 billion to $30 billion annually.
The effort comes as the annual Retail Theft Survey of loss prevention from Jack L. Hayes International showed apprehensions of shoplifters and dishonest retail workers rose 7.3 percent last year. The value of the goods recovered in such cases grew at almost three times the rate of apprehensions — 21.6 percent to a total of $182.9 million.
“Up to one-third of the investigations of organized retail crime today involve some nexus of the international movement of money, people or merchandise,” said Joe LaRocca, senior asset protection adviser at the NRF.
The pilot program launched in July in four ICE field offices: Los Angeles, Houston, Miami and New York, but was announced Thursday.
“ICE has become increasingly involved in investigations that target organized retail crime due to the associated cross-border criminal and financial activities these groups engage in,” said Kumar Kibble, acting director of the office of investigations for ICE.
LaRocca said the field offices in the program were selected based on “the high volume of activity we see in these four cities.”
Examples of the types of crimes being targeted include foreign nationals operating a major retail crime ring in two or three states in the U.S. and shipping money abroad or gangs stealing credit information and using fraudulent information to make purchases and ship merchandise to other countries, LaRocca said.
According to the NRF’s organized retail crime survey released in June, 72 percent of retailers surveyed had discovered criminal organizations exporting stolen goods outside of the U.S. or across state lines. An additional 28 percent of retailers have investigated criminal groups tied to street gangs with international connections.
Exclusive: @britneyspears is continuing to expand her brand. The pop icon, who appears in @kenzo ’s latest campaign, is partnering with Epic Rights to launch a line of branded merchandise. Read @hernameislex ‘s story, link in bio. #wwdnews #britneyspears
The Duchess of Cambridge channeled Princess Diana’s look upon giving birth to Prince Harry, when she and the Duke of Cambridge departed the hospital with the new baby Prince this afternoon in London. #wwdeye #princeofcambridge
The new Prince of Cambridge has arrived! The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge posed with the 8-pound newborn. She wore a look from one of her go-to designers, @jennypackham. Tap link in bio for more. #wwdeye #princeofcambridge
Jewelry label @alisonlou has made a name for itself with fine jewelry that speaks to the Millennial market. Now @twallz21 reports that the label is bringing those playful ideas to a new affordable line of lucite hoops with the launch of Loucite by Alison Lou. Here’s a look from the line modeled by @emrata. #wwdaccessories
@sarahjessicaparker and @gilt are teaming up on a bridal ready-to-wear line. Tomorrow, Parker will launch SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker Bridal — and as part of the launch, Gilt will offer 15 exclusive styles from the SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker footwear collection that were designed to complement the new line. Made out of 10 styles, the line is designed for a variety of occasions, from bridal showers to receptions. Get more details on WWD.com #wwdfashion
A grooming moment between @tanfrance and @antoni last night at the The LGBT Community Center Trailblazer Awards honoring Anna Wintour, Ricky Martin and more. See more photos at WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @lexieblacklock)
“It was a very surreal feeling. It wasn’t like we were in the studio together coming up with it — it’s more like he discovered it and loved it. I didn’t let myself get my hopes up, but then it happened it was very exciting,” said singer-songwriter @nombe on discovering that @pharrell would be using his song, “Cant Catch Me” on his HBO documentary series “Outpost.” The German-born singer — named Noah MacBeth — talked to WWD about feminism, using art as a platform for political expression and personal style. Read more on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
This season, denim is going west – in influence. Brands like @fathersdaughterla (pictured here), @tommyhilfiger Jeans, @levis and more are opting for raw, top-stitching styles. (Styled by @thealexbadia; 📷: @ryanplett)