Retail News

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.”

$2.5 Million investment will combat Organized Retail Crime

August 22, 2023

FOX 44

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Legislature has made its most significant financial investment to combat Organized Retail Crime (ORC) in state history during the 2023 legislative session.

“A top priority for Texas retailers is cracking down on the organized retail crime that fuels the black-market supply chain,” said John McCord, Executive Director of the Texas Retailers Association. “We applaud the Texas Legislature and Gov. Abbott for making this record-setting investment to signal to would-be criminals that Texas is tough on retail theft.”

The Texas Retailers Association says ORC is a term which refers to criminal enterprises that aren’t just “smash-and-grabs” or shoplifters, but instead established networks of criminals who consistently steal large quantities of merchandise for resale on the black market or other nefarious use.

A recent survey uncovered a 26.5 percent year-to-year increase in Organized Retail Crime incidents nationwide. Even more alarming, eight in ten retailers say the incidents are increasingly violent and aggressive, putting both employees and the general public in harm’s way.

To address this growing public safety concern, the Texas state budget for the FY 2024-25 biennium, HB 1, added more than $2.5 million in General Revenue and seven full-time employees to create an Organized Retail Theft Prevention Unit within the Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division.

Additional legislation, HB 1826, requires the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts to appoint a task force to study organized retail theft prevention, analyzing its impact on state sales tax collection and making further policy recommendations for the next Texas legislative session.

The Texas Retailers Association says that together, these measures mark the most significant investment to combat ORC in state history.