WNYT.com

Organized retail theft costs NYS over $75,000,000 per year

Posted at: 11/15/2012 5:55 PM
Updated at: 11/15/2012 6:42 PM
By: Jim Kambrich

Organized retail theft is more than just shoplifting; it's big business, and it's costing all of us extra money at the register.

Ted Potrikus with the Retail Council of New York State, showed a video of thieves armed with sledgehammers, clean out display cases of jewelry from a department store downstate.

The store doesn't want to be identified, but wanted to show what they're up against: organized retail crime.

Potrikus says this type of crime is getting worse, because more and more people are looking to save money.

Potrikus says it's costing us -- jacking up the price of what we buy by two to eight percent.

The crooks are taking they can sell quickly on the black market.

Besides jewelry, things like 'over-the-counter-medications, smoking cessation products, baby formula, razors, and batteries.

Nationwide, the FBI reports the retail industry looses over $30,000,000,000 a year to organized retail crime. It costs New York State $75,000,000 a year in lost sales tax revenue.

In March, three men tied up employees at the Frank Adams Jewelry store and stole expensive watches.

Another suspect walked out the door of a grocery store in Queensbury with over a $1,000 worth of teeth whitening products.

“ I think that we're seeing that increase in volume, but also an increase in aggressiveness to get what you want,” said Kate Hogan.

Last year, Price Chopper reported nearly 700 incidents of organized retail crime.

Mona Golub with the Golub Corporation says Price Chopper is part of a network of companies that share information on organized retail crime and also share it with law enforcement.

“Once we share that information, the level of awareness is raised and patterns can be discovered more quickly and addressed,” said Golub

Another problem is with perishable items sold on the black market, like baby formula, for example.

When you buy something on the black market, you don’t know for sure if it's been stored in a safe manner, what’s really inside, or even how old it is.

 Thieves have been known to cut baby formula with things like baking soda and baking powder so they can sell more of it.

Thieves have also been known to change expiration dates, so that the consumer doesn't really know how old it is.  

It is safe to by products like baby powder if you buy it a reputable store, but if you're buying it from someone on the street, you're taking chances.

Return fraud is also a big part of organized retail theft.

This involves counterfeiting sales receipts. Amazingly, there are websites that can help thieves do it.

“People will counterfeit sales receipts and then they will go into the store and they will match up their sales receipts with an item on the shelf and take it to the counter, and the item never leaves the store. And they get money back. And they get money back,” said Potrikus

The majority of thefts are under $1,000. That makes it a misdemeanor.

If a thief hits stores in multiple counties, that's a string of misdemeanors.

The retail council is proposing legislation that would allow DA's to lump all those thefts into one case, making it a felony.

The council is also proposing another bill that would make it an automatic felony if thieves use emergency exits and fire doors.