NRF and RILA gang up on retail theft

The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) have pooled their data into a single national retail crime database.

An organized gang of shoplifters,

or "boosters," can clear as much as $10,000 per day—per

person—stealing razor blades, batteries and even infant formula. But now retailers are banding together as well. In April, the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) pooled their data into a single national retail crime database.

Called the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), the database also gives retailers a way to share details of crime with the authorities. To date, LERPnet has info on 20,000 crimes gathered from a network of 50,000 stores. In total, 46 retailers, including Sears, American Outfitters and Federated Department Stores, are currently participating in the program.

LERPnet includes a wealth of information about the criminals, such as diversion and security evasion tactics, witness statements, photography and video. Earlier this year, a California luxury department store built a stronger case against thieves who had stolen nearly $400,000 worth of merchandise by sharing information with a lower-end store that had been hit by the same gang, notes Angelica Rodriguez, director of loss prevention with the NRF. Without LERPnet, "the two would have never connected the dots because they serve two totally different markets," she says.

Organized retail crime is estimated to cost the industry as much as $30 billion each year. The retail associations had been tracking this information in two separate databases, but in late 2006 the two groups began merging their efforts at the request of the FBI. Professor Richard Hollinger, author of the University of Florida's ongoing National Retail Security Survey, says, "LERPnet has the potential for being the single most important breakthrough in loss prevention case investigation," he says.

LERPnet's backers hope to see more retailers share their crime data. Higher participation means better chances of catching the bad guys. (For more on organized retail crime, see Auction Blocks: Criminals Unload Counterfeit and Stolen Goods on eBay.)

Robert McMillan

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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