November 2, 2022
Today Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes discussed the issue of organized retail crime (ORC) and the state’s work to address it with a group of the nation’s largest retailers, including Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Lowes, Kroger and more.
Organized retail crime generally refers to groups and individuals who steal a significant number of products with the intent to sell the items for gain. This includes groups of people or individuals loading shopping carts full of goods and blatantly walking out of the store with hundreds or thousands of dollars of merchandise. There are also reports of “smash and grab” crimes and a rise in thefts of catalytic converters for the precious metals inside. In Utah, the problem is costing retailers millions of dollars every year and affects virtually every brick-and-mortar retail outlet in the state, as well as consumers.
As an authority on organized retail crime, General Reyes spoke about Utah’s work as a pioneer in fighting these bold and costly crimes. The Utah Attorney General’s Office has dedicated resources to support the full time CASE unit, (Crimes Against Statewide Economy), which includes a public/private partnership to arrest and prosecute the thieves and the people who organize the crimes.
Facts about organized retail crime:
- Almost 70% of storefronts have reported an increase in theft over the last year, for losses of at least $45 billion.
- Rising costs and the overall economic climate in America are contributing to this increase.
- CASE focuses on arresting the person running the theft rings (the fence), not just the thieves at the stores.
- Utah’s CASE Task force began as a private/public partnership funded by retailers, but two years ago the Legislature dedicated $500,000 to Attorney General’s Office to fund CASE full time.
- Utah led the country by dedicating resources to focus on ORC.
- Common targets for theft include electronics, tools, clothes, jewelry, grocery store items like meat and baby formula and even honey.
- The CASE unit recently arrested the owner of a local business and charged him in connection to the illegal theft and sales of up to 3,556 catalytic converters sold at a total price of $913,230. Thieves in this case received about $150 per converter, admitting they were feeding a drug habit. These thieves cut converters from 350-450 cars over the last year, each costing vehicle owners at least $2,000 to replace.