Houston Near Top Of Organized Retail Crime In US

The National Retail Federation has ranked Houston among the top 10 cities for organized retail crime in 2012. The economic impact from the crime extends far beyond the manufacturing and retail industry.

The U.S. retail industry loses between $15 billion and $37 billion each year to organized retail crime. That’s according to an estimate by the Congressional Research Service. Stores across the country have reported an increase of large-scale thefts on a number of different items, from designer denim and electronics to allergy medicine and infant formula.

“Organized Retail Crime can be one person, or it can be a group, what their sole intent is to take a number of items of the same type with the sole intent of reselling.”

That’s Joe Williams from the Texas Retailers Association. He estimates that in Texas, the retail value of items stolen by professional shoplifters, or “boosters,” falls between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.

He says when those items are stolen, it not only affects retailers but also directly impacts the states.

“If that item is resold in the black market, where there is no sales tax charged, then the state loses sales tax revenue on those items that are boosted. We think that that number is somewhere around $200 million annually.”

Lee bland is the vice president of loss prevention at Stage Stores, a Houston-based retailer that operates over 800 department stores in 30 states.

She says as a result of retail crime, consumers also bear extra cost at the register.

“What happens is we have to raise our prices to cover our losses from the product that’s stolen in the stores.”

The National Retail Federation has listed Houston in the top 10 cities for organized retail crime for each of the last three years.

Bland believes Houston is a hotbed for theft because it is so close to the Mexican border.

“When we do apprehend organized retail crime groups, they’re here illegally. And so what happens is, someone will smuggle them across the border, and in return for being smuggled into the United States. They are obligated to be a part of this organize retail theft group for a year or two to pay back their in-transit into the United States.”

Williams says Texas retailers have increased surveillance and are improving customer services to make stores less susceptible to retail theft.