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L.A., Orange counties among top areas for organized retail crime

June 05, 2012|By Shan Li
  • Video monitors at Target watch several stores at one time, checking for thieves grabbing large quantities of items.
Video monitors at Target watch several stores at one time, checking for… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)

Los Angeles and Orange counties ranks among the top 10 locales nationwide plagued by organized retail crime, a survey finds.

Organized crime has become increasingly sophisticated as groups of thieves -- sometimes organized into gangs -- hit up stores and make off with thousands of dollars in merchandise that is later returned or sold.

According to the National Retail Federation's annual organized crime survey, the stagnating economy has exacerbated the problem -- in the last year, 96% of retailers said they were victims of organized crime, up from 94.5% in the previous year.

"Criminals have become more desperate and brazen in their efforts, stopping at nothing to get their hands on large quantities of merchandise,” said Rich Mellor, NRF's vice president of loss prevention. “Selling this stolen merchandise is a growing criminal enterprise."

Other locales that have high rates of organized retail crime include Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Phoenix and the San Francisco-Oakland area.

In addition to stores, thieves also target trucks hauling cargo from distribution centers. About 52% of retailers say they have been targeted for cargo theft in the past year, up from 49.6% in the previous year.

Some intriguing -- and puzzling -- trends have also gained traction the past year among the retail criminal element, including the rising theft of laundry detergent, an increase in digital receipt fraud and growing collusion with street gangs. 

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