By Travis Gillmore
While Los Angeles is known for designer boutiques and world-class shopping destinations, not everyone enters luxury retailers with the intention of paying, as the city topped the charts for organized criminal retail thefts again in a recently released survey.
Revealed in the National Retail Federation’s 2023 Retail Security Survey report, the City of Angels has led the nation in such crimes since 2017—when it overtook New York City.
San Francisco placed second and Sacramento seventh in this year’s report analyzing incidents from 2022.
“Retailers are seeing unprecedented levels of theft coupled with rampant crime in their stores, and the situation is only becoming more dire,” David Johnston, vice president of asset protection and retail operations for the retail federation, said in the report. “Far beyond the financial impact of these crimes, the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority for all retailers, regardless of size or category.”
The survey questioned 177 retail brands with nearly 100,000 brick and motar locations nationwide, accounting for approximately $1.6 trillion in sales in 2022.
Companies represented dozens of sectors, including apparel, grocery and supermarket, jewelry, and department stores.
Shrinkage—the amount of inventory lost to theft—increased 1.6 percent from 2021 to 2022, accounting for $18.2 billion in losses, according to the report.
Such impacts retailer’s ability to be profitable and some are working to protect employees from violent shoplifting, including closing stores earlier, which add to the costs of doing business, according to experts.
Given the oversized role retail plays in the U.S. economy, as the largest private-sector employer—employing 52 million people, or one in four jobs nationwide and contributing nearly $4 trillion to the economy—some say more needs to be done to protect the industry and business owners from growing retail theft issues.
Violent and dangerous thefts are becoming more common, as 88 percent of retailers responding nationwide said that shoplifters were more aggressive than the year before, and documented violent encounters increased by 35 percent over the same period, according to the survey.
For the second year in a row, organized retail theft crimes were reported as significantly impacting businesses through violent smash-and-grab style robberies involving groups overwhelming stores and leaving with large amounts of merchandise.
Such organized criminal activity is typically part of a network of co-conspirators working to sell stolen items online and on the streets at reduced prices, according to the report.
“Over recent years, we have seen that targeted goods have expanded, where the focus may not entirely be based on price point,” the survey concluded. “Goods can range from high-price, high-fashion items to everyday product needs that have a fast resale capability.”
Police are aware of the tactics and have recovered thousands of items this year in Los Angeles.
Repeat offenses are climbing, with 70 percent of retailers saying the same individuals are targeting their stores, while 53 percent of those responding saying violent encounters have increased because of repeat offenders, according to the survey.
Further contributing to the problem is the rise of juvenile shoplifting—with incidents and violence both climbing, survey respondents said.