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MCAO News Releases

Posted on: May 17, 2012

Law Enforcement Agencies Partner with Major Retailers to Combat Organized Retail Crime

PHOENIX, AZ (May 17, 2012) – Major retailers in Arizona are teaming up with local law enforcement agencies on a new strategy to fight organized retail crime. Using a secure website developed by the Arizona Organized Retail Crime Alliance (AZORCA), retailers and law enforcement authorities will now be able to gather and share intelligence in real time by posting bulletins about organized retail theft, robberies, counterfeiting, check and credit card fraud, prescription fraud, identity theft and other scams. The information will be saved in a searchable database with mapping capabilities, making it possible for authorities to spot crime patterns, connect cases and prevent additional crimes before they occur.

“The collaborative strategy behind AZORCA is just the latest example of law enforcement agencies in Maricopa County coming together to solve a problem that has devastating effects on our community,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Organized retail crime not only drives up the costs of goods and services for consumers, it deprives retailers of revenue that would otherwise allow them to expand and add jobs and deprives municipalities of tax receipts that would otherwise fund essential services,” he added.

Organized retail crime (ORC) refers to groups, gangs and sometimes individuals who illegally obtain retail merchandise in substantial quantities through theft and fraud as part of a criminal enterprise. According to the National Retail Federation, ORC affects almost every single retailer in the U.S., costing the industry as a whole an estimated $15 - $30 billion annually. Recent research indicates that retail criminals are becoming increasingly violent, threatening the safety of consumers as well as store employees.

“The development of the AZORCA website allows retail businesses, who normally are so competitive that they don’t cooperate with each other, to share information and coordinate with multiple law enforcement agencies,” said Michelle Ahlmer, Executive Director of the Arizona Retailers Association. “We view this website as a key tool to prosecuting criminals; it will help tremendously to stem the tide of organized retail crime.”

In 2011, for the first time, Phoenix landed on the NRF’s list of top ten cities targeted by organized retail crime gangs, joining Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Miami and Las Vegas. Frequently, these criminals are also involved in other “gateway” crimes including drugs, weapons, street gangs and even terrorist financing.

“As a Company, Target has a goal to engage in strategic partnerships with key law enforcement and public safety organizations nationwide. To this end, Target sponsors and participates in websites similar to AZORCA that have been developed in other states and we are excited to roll out AZORCA,” stated Rob Peterson, Target Investigations Team Leader. “Through collaboration and information sharing fostered by websites, such as AZORCA, we are learning that the individuals and groups who participate in Organized Retail Crimes, do so to finance other criminal enterprises. By charging and prosecuting these criminals we not only make an impact in our stores, but impact crime in our communities on multiple levels.”

Eight out of ten retailers surveyed by NRF report that organized retail crime activity has increased in the last three years. Several factors are believed to be responsible for the increase, including the current economic environment, lower staffing levels at stores, and the ease of selling stolen merchandise online and through other fencing operations.

The most commonly stolen items include designer clothing and accessories, infant formula, over-the-counter drugs, high-end health and beauty aids, batteries and the latest “i” consumer electronics devices.

For more information about AZORCA, please visit www.azorca.org.

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