Seattle isn’t facing a rising trend of mere shoplifting. The city’s shops and stores are under constant attack from organized retail theft rings that operate in a massive underground supply chain.
That basically sums up a report from Seattle’s City Auditor’s Office that looks into the recent rise of organized retail theft. In a nutshell, there are fences and boosters. Fences are like the managers. They look at the market to find what buyers want. Fences give a list to boosters. On that list are items for them to steal from stores. Once the goods are acquired, the fences pay the boosters, then turn around and sell the merch, most likely online.
Police say they cannot handle the amount of shoplifting happening in the city…Seattle Police say due to staffing and resources, they cannot properly investigate retail theft organizations, investigate cases or conduct in-custody interviews with suspects…
Derek Pinder is the assistant manager for Simply Seattle. He says on any given day, he’ll have three to five people come into the store trying to shoplift. “There’s no real consequences for their actions. So, it is just continuing to expand,” he claimed.
Police and retail officials say this organized shoplifting is stealing as much as $40 billion worth of products annually.
The news, years ago, reported an auto theft ring that operated in Motown, stealing cars to order.
Storage lots at auto plants are frequently hit by gangs that steal half a dozen vehicles from the one plant in a night. What are they going to do with a half dozen F-150s or Mustangs if not pass them on to a distribution network?
Ever work in retail? I don’t know if DesertDave had a lot of shoplifiting in his store, but RS was targeted constantly. The team effort that sticks in my mind was four guys that came in together and went to the cassette display. They started picking cassettes up, then putting them back, picking up others, putting them back, in rapid succession. I am sure that I lost about half a dozen cassettes, in their shuffling, but I couldn’t prove it without frisking them, and there were four of them and one of me. That was 88-89. Others would walk in the store, pick an item off the shelf, then go to the counter and demand a cash refund, as if they had bought it.
The girl who had the Stadium Drive RS was probably being hit by gangs. The company would not give her any help, and, being on a main road out of town toward the burbs, the store was mobbed with customers every day around 5pm. Someone would ask her to retrieve the owners manual for an item, for instance. The moment she went in the back room to get what had been asked for, merch started flying out the front door. So she was fired for “allowing” the shoplifting.
Part of it has to be reduced community support for law enforcement. Fewer resources. Raising the amount required for felony. Less likely to go to jail. Often released on bail to see a judge later. Still out there committing more crime.
And the effort to keep minorities out of prison seem to give a license to steal.
It’s also easier for companies and the public to blame theft for store closures and retail struggles than admit stores’ over-expansion, strategy mistakes and customers abandoning stores for online shopping, said Jonathan Simon, a criminal justice professor at UC Berkeley School of Law.
“It’s much more convenient if we can blame it on people we already consider reprehensible,” he said.
In a major shift, Walgreens, which said it saw a spike in shrink during the pandemic and cited organized retail crime in its decision to close five San Francisco stores in 2021, is backtracking.
It’s also better, for management, than the company admitting theft is increasing because they, like RS, refuse to spend the money to staff stores adequately, or buy security fixtures. Office Depot had some nice security fixtures for calculators. People could push the buttons on the calculator, but the device was behind a securely screwed down bracket. No spending on something like that at RS. Someone wants to see a small item, you pull it out of the display case, so they can see it. But you get pulled away by the other six people waiting to be taken care of. The moment you turn your back on the guy with the calculator, he, and the calculator, are gone. I lost a $160 radar detector that way.
We have all heard of “space age” plastics, like Lexan, that have very high impact resistance. So, why, Mr Jewelry Store Owner, did you have glass tops on your display cases, that the “smash and grab” crew easily broke, rather than Lexan display cases?
Lexan scratches very easily. Glass doesn’t. That’s why you don’t see many lexan countertops anywhere in retail where goods have to be passed back and forth, I would say that would be especially true where the merchandise has a high probability of being metallic.
A scratch resistant coating can be applied, like my polygarbonate glasses have. When the coating deteriorates, the surface can be buffed and a new coating applied, like is done with fogged vehicle headlight covers.