Tom Wickham Tom Wickham Senior Vice President, State and Local Policy

Published

May 25, 2022

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Fill me in: Organized retail theft rates have spiked significantly in the past year, affecting communities across the nation. This theft is perpetrated by organized criminal rings that steal large amounts of goods from businesses of all types and sizes with the intent to resell them. 

These crimes are not the work of your average shoplifters stealing a small amount for personal use, but the work of criminal groups stealing for greed—skirting the law and often employing violence to steal as much as possible for as big a payoff as possible. 

These groups are taking advantage of outdated state laws regarding prosecution and sentencing, which allow their members, in many cases, to avoid any prosecution altogether. These laws allow criminal rings to operate with impunity across county and state lines to avoid prosecution, hitting store after store and accumulating massive quantities of stolen goods. 

These stolen goods are passed off as legitimate merchandise and sold in huge quantities on an array of online platforms. 

What’s the impact? 

  • $700,000: Organized retail crime cost stores an average of over $700,000 per $1 billion in sales in 2020--up more than 50% in the last five years. 
  • 54%: Fifty-four percent of small business owners experienced an increase in shoplifting in 2021. 

What can be done? To address this, swift action is needed to close the market for stolen goods and to enable the arrest and prosecution of offenders. 

  • At the federal level, Congress must act to require disclosure of high-volume third-party sellers in online marketplaces and establish transparency that will minimize such coordinated exploitation of online marketplaces through the Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) Consumers Act (H.R. 5502). 
  • At the state level, states need to more clearly define the crime “organized retail theft” to provide prosecutors with the legal tools needed to target organized theft rings. States should also take action to aggressively prosecute organized retail theft by passing legislation to enable the aggregation and prosecution of offenses across state lines, and by establishing statewide task forces to take down organized retail theft rings. States also need to adjust the thresholds for the value of goods stolen to trigger a felony charge to prevent thieves from avoiding prosecution and a heavier charge. 

What the Chamber is doing: The Chamber is urging policymakers to implement changes to local, state, and federal policy to help curb the rise in organized retail theft.  

On March 29th, the Chamber sent a letter to Members of Congress, the National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, and the National District Attorneys Association on the pressing need for such reforms to address rising retail theft and organized retail crime. 

The Chamber has also been engaged with state and local chambers to raise awareness on the issue and advocate in their respected regions. 

Additional resources: 

About the authors

Tom Wickham

Tom Wickham

Senior Vice President, State and Local Policy

Tom Wickham, former Parliamentarian of the U.S. House of Representatives, serves as senior vice president of State & Local Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Wickham leads the Chamber’s new division that monitors state and local policy developments and coordinates state and local policy advocacy strategies within the existing Chamber framework.

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