More Theft in Store for Retailers, Survey Says

A prominent retail group on Thursday reported a nationwide increase this year in shoplifting and pharmacy thefts, calling the fight to stop store crime "an uphill battle."

The Retail Industry Leaders Association blamed an expanding black market for the rise in organized shoplifting crimes, with stolen goods surfacing on the Internet, in flea markets and in storefront bodegas.

"We were disappointed, though not surprised," Lisa LaBruno, the association's vice president of loss prevention and legal affairs, said in a statement. "As long as there are channels through which thieves can resell stolen goods, it will be difficult to stem the tide of organized retail crime."

More than half of the 200 retailers representing 100,000 outlets surveyed said that shoplifting by organized bands of thieves had surged upward, and 41% indicated that individual shoplifting was also on the rise. Stores reporting more thefts of pharmaceutical products hit 64%, though the figures released did not specify how many of those involved prescription drugs.

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As for online reselling that franchises in the trade group could detect, 64% reported an increase in re-vending of their goods on the Internet.

Although store crime continued its climb in 2011, the rate seems to have slowed, as the economy recovers somewhat. In 2010, the association said 65% of retailers saw an uptick in organized retail crime, defined as acts of stealing by any groups of two or more people.

One trend seems to have leveled off in 2011. Nearly 80% reported no change in "flash mob" attacks -- mass robberies often coordinated through social media.

The National Retail Federation, another large trade association, reported earlier this year that 95% of retailers were victimized by organized retail crime -- an increase of 6% over the previous year.

Retailers lose $13 billion a year to merchandise theft, according to the National Association for Shoplifting Prevention, and only one person in 48 who commits those crimes get caught.