Congress will take steps to protect the retail supply chain from organized crime

The U.S. Congress has approved legislation that will create an Organized Retail Theft (ORT) Task Force within the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The task force is also charged with providing expertise to the retail community to establish a national database or clearinghouse that would be housed and maintained in the private sector to track and identify where these crimes are being committed.

Organized crime costs retailers an estimated $34 billion a year. These crimes are attributable to groups of well-organized thieves stealing goods to resell them into the stream of commerce -- a characteristic that distinguishes organized retail theft (ORT) from petty thievery or shoplifting. This results in higher costs to retailers and consumers, since retailers are compelled to make major security investments that are eventually passed on to consumers as a cost of doing business.

According to experts, state sales tax revenues are reduced by $1 billion a year due to lost sales. These crimes also purportedly present public health risks, since ORT gangs often steal infant formula, pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter medicines, diabetes testing kits and other consumer health care products that require proper storage and handling issues for which ORT gangs have little regard. There is also evidence that these gangs may have connections to international terrorist groups.

In August 2005, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) initiated the InfoShare program, a national ORT databank created to facilitate the collection, management and distribution of major crime and incident data among retailers. The RILA InfoShare committee, comprised of the senior loss prevention executives from Big Lots, Dollar General, Family Dollar, Food Lion, Gap, Limited Brands, Lowe's Companies, Office Depot, Payless ShoeSource, PEPBOYS Auto, Kmart (Sears Holding Corporation), Target Corporation, Walgreen Company and Wal-Mart Stores, are developing and piloting this initiative. The program will officially launch in early 2006.

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