Resource Center

article / May 23, 2023

How modern loss prevention investigators are combating organized retail crime

ORC incidents have increased by nearly 30% since 2021 – learn what you can do to prevent it at your business

Organized retail crime (ORC) is on the rise. Local businesses and national retail chains are reporting massive profit losses due to inventory shrink caused by ORC. Target alone expects to lose up to $600 billion by the end of its 2022 fiscal year, and Walmart has reported that it may be forced to close retail locations if it cannot stem the tide of organized retail theft. 

Shoplifters engaged in ORC use sophisticated, coordinated techniques to seek out businesses lacking the security resources or knowledge to combat them, stealing valuable goods and reselling them for a massive profit. If you’ve found yourself asking, “What is organized retail crime, and how can I fight back,” you’re in the right place. Read on to learn more. 

What is organized retail theft?

Organized retail crime (known in some jurisdictions as organized retail theft) involves the illegal theft and possession of stolen property committed by a group of two or more people to profit off of its resale.

It is crucial to distinguish ORC from petty theft, which is generally committed by a single individual for personal gain. While petty theft is still a significant problem for loss prevention teams to overcome, organized retail crime poses a greater risk to an organization’s bottom line due to the level of coordination and sophistication involved. 

While each state may have defined its own set of characteristics of organized retail crime to arrest and prosecute criminals, there are a few commonalities that distinguish it from other forms of theft:

  • Number of people involved: ORC involves at least two people, whether acting together in the theft of merchandise or acting as an accomplice in possession of said merchandise. Some laws also distinguish between smaller and larger groups of people.

  • Value of theft: The value of items is usually greater than petty theft charges – for example, according to Washington state law, the value of stolen property must be worth more than $750. 

  • Coordination: Coordination may involve the exchange of communication (electronic or otherwise) or involve the theft of property across multiple locations.

Organized retail crime operations can be a group of friends working together to defraud local businesses, or they can be entire criminal rings engaging in the theft of a wide range of products from dozens of retail locations. 

Typical targets include products that are easily concealed but highly sought after, offer high-value rewards and sell quickly. Targeted products include personal electronics, video games, jewelry, clothing, and expensive consumable goods like medication or baby formula.

Organized retail loss prevention statistics

Curtailing organized retail crime is a critical concern for retail businesses. A 2022 survey conducted by the National Retail Federation paints an increasingly dire picture for loss prevention efforts as instances of ORC and the volume of losses continues to grow. Retail businesses are facing:

  • An overall increase in shrink rates (which includes ORC), representing $94.5 billion in lost sales.

  • A 26.5% increase in ORC incidents in 2021.

  • An 81.2% increase in violence associated with ORC incidents.

As a result, 70.7% of surveyed businesses are increasing ORC priorities to combat rising crime rates.

The rise in petty and organized retail crime is forcing businesses to overhaul their approaches to loss prevention, including developing specialized ORC task forces to mitigate losses and prevent crime before it happens. To learn more, download the free Axon 2023 Retail Crime Report. 

Organized retail crime investigators

According to the NRF survey, nearly 70% of retailers do not have an internal team dedicated to investigating and preventing organized retail crime. Some retailers may not have the resources to dedicate to specialized ORC departments. Others may not be aware ORC is occurring at their business and thus do not think they need to dedicate resources to developing internal processes to combat it.

As ORC-related shrink grows, building investigative departments will only grow more important to prevent further losses. Organizations are beginning to rely on internal organized retail crime investigators to spearhead these operations. These individuals are not only responsible for monitoring internal security feeds for theft, they often rely on external sources, like social media, pawn shops, auction sites and more to monitor potential ORC activity. They also work with local law enforcement to help catch suspected criminals and break up ORC rings before they cause outsized financial damage to local businesses.

For organizations looking to develop their own approach to stopping ORC and need assistance to get their efforts off the ground, several organized retail crime associations (ORCAs) exist. These groups provide investigative assistance, education as well as collaboration between retail, local law enforcement, and prosecutors to reduce organized crime.

As each jurisdiction has its own definition of and sentencing structure for organized retail crime, many of these groups specialize by state or region. You can find a full list of ORCAs for your area at

Organized retail crime training programs

As organizations increase their efforts to combat organized retail crime, there will be an increased call for investigators to build and lead these programs. Certified training programs provide the knowledge and practical skills to curtail these organized criminal rings.

Organizations like the McAfee Institute offer certified training courses that enable individuals to learn expert techniques to reduce ORC-based losses. These programs provide instruction on:

  • How to detect ORC fraud schemes

  • Tips for successful investigations

  • How to investigate social media profiles for organized activity

  • How boosting and fencing operations work

  • How to examine auction listings for fraud

  • Other surveillance methods

As organized retail crime operations grow larger and more sophisticated, businesses will need to upskill their loss prevention employees so they can recognize common and developing tactics. Businesses must also ensure that future employees can prove they understand the demands of current loss prevention efforts through certification.

Stop ORC in its tracks

Fight back against organized retail crime with a modern, efficient approach. Axon has developed a suite of enterprise security solutions that provide businesses with state-of-the-art tech, effective de-escalation strategies and full incident transparency.

Axon Body-Worn Cameras provide an on-the-ground view of retail locations to deter and de-escalate potentially violent incidents.

  • Axon Body Workforce is a personal safety camera designed specifically to protect frontline workers. This camera leverages technology from Axon’s industry-leading line of law enforcement cameras and offers custom color shells to fit your organization’s brand and employee uniforms.

  • Axon Body 4 is our latest generation body-worn camera for law enforcement. With a full-shift battery, improved camera, and bi-directional capabilities, Axon Body 4 captures every moment and facilitates communication with critical support teams.

TASER Energy Weapons offer retail security teams a proven option for de-escalating threats as the most effective less lethal option in the history of public safety.

  • TASER 10 is Axon’s latest energy weapon innovation. It offers improved accuracy and penetration with 10 individually targeted probes and a maximum range of 45 feet.

  • TASER 7 connects wirelessly to the Axon network, and it’s backed by groundbreaking training that helps show your commitment to your personal.

Axon Evidence acts as the hub of Axon’s ecosystem and offers efficient storing and managing of digital evidence and enables quick sharing with Law Enforcement. With smooth playback and intuitive search, Axon Evidence makes it simple to connect and manage your growing stores of data—video, photos, documents and more—in a single, secure system.

The Axon ecosystem of enterprise security solutions offers effective de-escalation tools that will protect your employees, reduce inventory shrink, and provide secure aggregation of your security data.

Contact us today to learn more about how the Axon team can help you combat the effects of organized retail crime (ORC).