With organized retail crime increasing, Texas forms task force to combat it

September 22, 2023

Houston Public Media

With Texas retailers’ concern for organized retail theft activity increasing, the Texas Comptroller has organized a task force of 10 members to analyze and manage the growing issue.

Houston has ranked fourth in the country for organized retail theft activity since 2021, and organized retail crime in Texas as a whole has risen to 26.5% since the end of the pandemic. While Houston hasn’t seen retail theft nearly to the extent of other highly populated cities like Los Angeles or New York, retailers are still concerned that it’s only a matter of time.

John McCord, the Texas Retail Association Executive Director, said that the task force is being implemented to get ahead of the curve before it reaches those levels.

“In 2021, retailers lost about $94.5 billion in product,” he said. “…[R]etailers say that these incidents are getting increasingly violent. So while stopping the incidents or stopping the resale of items, is incredibly important. It’s also important that we get ahead of it before the theft actually takes place.”

The Task Force consists of a combination of representatives from retailers – Amazon, eBay, H-E-B, and several others – along with several law enforcement and state agencies.

They will meet quarterly to make legislative suggestions to prevent organized retail theft, manage the crime’s long-term economic impact and improve consumer protections based on their research of the impact of organized retail crime in Texas. They’ll also be responsible for advising those affected by it on how to minimize theft and how to manage hot-spot areas.

Comptroller Glenn Hegar said he’s proud to be chair of the task force.

“I am pleased to be leading this critical effort and grateful to all the members of this task force for agreeing to serve,” Hegar said. “I think this is really important for people to feel safe in their communities, and also to combat something that has become really prevalent in the ease of ability of criminals to be able to sell those products through the internet or through local stores.”

Organized retail crime activity isn’t just shoplifting or swiping a candy bar from an easy-to-reach shelf. The Texas Retailers Association defines it as large-scale theft of retail merchandise with the goal of reselling the goods for personal financial benefit; more commonly associated with smash-and-grab thefts.

“We’re not talking about, you know, a teenager who’s walking in and taking a shirt off of a rack or something of that nature,” John McCord, the Texas Retail Association Executive Director, said. “This is much more organized, where it’s large-scale theft, with the specific intent to sell those items on the black market for financial gain. Where a group of folks who walk in and smash cases with expensive products and just walk out to resell it online or on the black market.”