Development of networks and strengthening of relationships between retailers and local law enforcement critical in identifying crime trends
Despite the best efforts of loss prevention officials at organizations throughout the industry, the frequency of organized retail crime (ORC) incidents across the country continues to escalate at an alarming rate. Crime groups are becoming increasingly more sophisticated with respect to the tactics they employ and their approach to the crimes they commit.
And, without the significant amounts of resources that would be required in order to properly tackle the issue of ORC head on, retailers are often left at a figurative and literal loss. However, according to Nigel Ramoutar, External Fraud and Crime Specialist at Rexall Pharmacy Group Ltd., the scourge and impacts of ORC can be combatted effectively through the development of loss prevention networking groups that facilitate information sharing and the identification of key trends.
”Most importantly, we were able to start disrupting the operations of organized crime groups.”
Ramoutar recently hosted a panel discussion as part of Retail Council of Canada’s virtual 2021 Retail Loss Prevention Forum. The panel, sponsored by Butterfly, included Superintendent Robert Gourley, Halton Police, Burlington, ON, Stephanie Guilbeault, Acting Sergeant, Ottawa Police, and Officer Gary McCoy, Alternative Response Unit, Ottawa Police, who each weighed in on the problem posed by ORC groups, the difficulties and complications in bringing members of these groups to justice, as well as some of the tactics and strategies that retailers can leverage in order to minimize the negative bottom line ramifications on their businesses.
Gourley, with more than 20 years of experience working within Halton region, says that he’s noticed consistent and significant year-over-year increases in retail theft. Combined with less-than-impressive charge and clearance rates, he recognizes the severity of the situation and need for a solution. As a result, his division erected a Retail Theft Unit.
“We organized regular meetings with loss prevention officers from the malls and various stores,” he explains. “It allowed us to start a dialogue and information sharing between loss prevention officers and our services and crime analysts, which is critical in fighting retail theft. We immediately saw improvements in our charge and clearance rates. And, most importantly, we were able to start disrupting the operations of organized crime groups.”
He stresses that information sharing throughout regions and across jurisdictions is crucial and that improving relationships between law enforcement and loss prevention officers is key in combatting ORC. Guilbeault of the Ottawa Police agreed, and emphasized the importance of robust, streamlined information sharing systems.
Retailers should be joining any networks that are available to them. And if there aren’t any, they should create one themselves.
“We’ve developed an online reporting system called Coplogic which enables automatic uploads from loss prevention officers in order to provide an incident report to police,” she explains. “Shop theft has no boundaries. There are travelling thieves operating across the Eastern corridor. Ensuring a strong loss prevention network and maintaining open lines of communication in order to share critical information will provide the necessary leverage required to stop these groups.
Though the sharing of information and collaboration between loss prevention officers and law enforcement is clearly a pivotal piece needed in order to fight ORC, McCoy suggests that even more can be done to minimize the impacts of these criminal groups.
“Retailers should be joining any networks that are available to them. And if there aren’t any, they should create one themselves. Be proactive in hosting opportunities to get together with law enforcement partners, fellow loss prevention officers, community associations, city politicians and crown attorneys to hold ongoing dialogue. Creating these communities makes it easier for everyone impacted by these crimes to identify associated trends and more difficult for ORC groups to operate as efficiently as they’d like to.”