Is Organized Retail Crime a Recent Phenomenon? 

As to whether organized retail crime (ORC) is a recent phenomenon, according to Mike Keenan, a TAL Global risk management, loss protection, and corporate security team member since 2017, the answer is no. Organized Retail Crime has been around for decades. The methods, however, have changed and evolved with time and new technologies.

Keenan, who formerly was with the FBI and was later hired by some of the country’s largest and most well-known retailers, including Macy’s, Ross, and Mervyns to lead their loss prevention programs and strategies, recalls first experiencing organized retail crime in the early 1980s.

He remembers explicitly a case he handled that illustrates one of the ways ORC manifests itself. It involved large-scale thefts of men’s suits. Although the legitimate retailers did have security cameras installed and what was considered at the time state-of-the-art theft prevention and security measures in place, they were at a loss as to how the suits were walking out the door – free of charge.

Then they got a lucky break.

A shoplifter was caught in the act with a “shopping list” that included men’s suits. Once in police custody, the thief revealed he was not stealing for himself but a different retail store. This other store created the demand for men’s suits, which resulted in thieves stealing men’s suits all over the city.

This was not ordinary shoplifting, defined as stealing merchandise for one’s own use.

Organized retail crime is “when a thief is working for someone else, in this case, another retailer,” says Keenan. “While the general public is not aware of this, ORC results in large losses to a retailer that are significantly greater than individual shoplifters. It turns shoplifting into a business.”

Capturing the shoplifter was a big breakthrough, but Keenan and his team had far more work to do. They knew now that this unscrupulous store was a “fence.” Fences buy stolen merchandise at pennies on the dollar and sell it for a hefty profit. But how could they catch them?  How could they put the fence out of business and the perpetrators behind bars?

retail crimeKeenan came up with a bright idea: ultraviolet light. The suits were labeled with the legitimate retailer’s name and location using invisible ultraviolet technology. Now there was a way to trace them.

Working with the local police department, Keenan paid a visit to the operators of the dishonest store. When asked about the men’s suits on display and where they had been purchased, the crooked retailer presented fake purchase orders and invoices. “They had it down,” Keenan says. “We later found out everything in the store, even the cash registers, had been stolen from other retailers.”

Keenan and the police then checked the merchandise using ultraviolet light to confirm their suspicions. Lo and behold, the markings Keenan had placed on the suits were clear as day. “They were caught red-handed. Ultimately, they admitted to everything, and we were able to put these characters out of business.”

Mike Keenan is our well-deserved Member Spotlight for January 2022.

He has earned virtually every certification available for those involved in retail crime and loss prevention field. We are honored that he is a member of the TAL Global team.

With his help, addressing retail crime and Loss Prevention has become one of TAL Global’s specialties. Retailers around the globe have called on the firm to investigate thefts and help prevent them in the first place. This makes Keenan an essential member of the TAL Global team.

Oh, by the way, listen to this video/podcast to learn more about Mike and more about the ever-changing world of retail crime and loss prevention.

More about retail crime and loss prevention is also available here.


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© TAL Global, 2019