Target executive warns House panel on rise of organized retail theft rings
WASHINGTON A Target Corp. executive warned Congressional lawmakers today that U.S. retail companies are increasingly plagued by powerful and highly organized syndicates that steal inventory on a large scale, and use sophisticated inventory control systems and online shopping techniques to traffic in stolen merchandise.
Brad Brekke, vice president of assets protection for Target, testified on behalf of the Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security Thursday. The panel’s hearing was titled “Organized Retail Theft Prevention: Fostering a Comprehensive Public-Private Response.”
The House panel is examining options for federal legislation to prevent organized retail crime, which accounts for an estimated $30 billion in retail losses annually. In his testimony, Brekke discussed the nature of retail crime, industry efforts to combat it and the role of online auction sites in fueling the dramatic growth of ORC.
“These criminal commercial enterprises are of a different nature and a different scale from what we have come to understand as ‘shoplifting’,” said Brekke. “Today, commercial ORC gangs exhibit modern practices of inventory management to help them meet the growing demand for the entire range of stolen merchandise.”
Along those lines, he said, “the Internet has transformed their ability to resell their stolen goods” by creating “a world-wide market for stolen goods in which the sellers are anonymous and there is an enormous universe of buyers who are generally unaware of the nature of the goods sold.”
Given those conditions, Brekke told lawmakers, a comprehensive response involving a partnership of government and private enterprise needs to be taken to stem the organized-crime theft trade. “In the most recent year, Target alone made approximately 75,000 theft apprehensions in its stores,” he said. “The growth in organized retail crime, fueled by technology and Internet fencing, has reached such a scale that retail and law enformement cannot successfully fight this problem one booster and one fence at a time.”
The solution proposed by Brekke and other coalition members, including the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, is to enforce transparency in Internet auction sites. “We need to have responsible Internet auction sites make modest changes to their sites to help reduce sales of stolen property…by applying traditional models of stolen property regulation to the Internet and inject some needed transparency to these transactions,” said Brekke.
Injecting transparency, he added, involves identifying sellers and providing serial numbers on goods being sold online, and enforcing Internet sales requirements at the federal rather than simply the state level.
NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson praised the House committee and its chairman, Rep. Robert Scott, D-Ohio, for their work in addressing the issue. “Organized retail crime drains businesses, penalizes consumers, and sustains illegal activities that threaten communities,” he said.
CVS donates $300,000-plus in supplies for California
WOONSOCKET, R.I. To assist with the California relief efforts, CVS is donating more than $300,000 in supplies and has established an emergency prescription delivery service.
“We are deeply concerned about the impact these fires have had on our customers and employees and we are pleased to aid on-going relief efforts with these donations,” stated Ronald Day, CVS’ area vice president of California. “We will continue to stay in touch with relief officials and provide any additional assistance that is needed.”
The pharmacy retailer announced on Wednesday that it is donating more than $300,000 in supplies to aid fire relief efforts in California. A truckload of health care and personal care items have been delivered to Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to help evacuees who are sheltered there.
CVS also has established an emergency prescription delivery service to the stadium and is delivering a seven-day supply of prescription medication to about 300 evacuees identified by on-site medical personnel. Several CVS pharmacy staff members have also been volunteering their time to provide assistance at the shelter.
The company also is providing more than 9,200 ExtraCare Relief Kits, which contain nearly two doze personal care items, to the American Red Cross for distribution to other shelters that have been setup in San Diego.
Over the past three days, the company has donated several pallets of water to firefighter command posts in the area and will continue to do so.
Those CVS pharmacy patients who have been displaced by the fires and are unable to access to their local CVS may visit any other CVS location to have their prescription filled. The company has 380 stores in the state, including 50 locations in the San Diego market.
Wildfires slow in San Diego
SAN DIEGO A change in the weather is helping firefighters contain a dozen blazes still burning in Southern California that have destroyed more than 1,500 homes and displaced close to 1 million residents, prompting retailers to step up relief efforts.
Walgreens donated $60,000 worth of essential items on Tuesday that were shipped to Qualcomm Stadium, near downtown San Diego, where 10,000 evacuees have taken up residence. The retailer donated water, sunscreen, diapers and dust masks for residents who are waiting to return home.
“We’re glad to do all we can to help the people of Southern California who have had to evacuate their homes,” said William Hose, Walgreens vice president of store operations for California.
Rite Aid Tuesday evening announced that its charity arm, the Rite Aid Foundation, was making a $100,000 donation to the American Red Cross to help the victims, families and communities affected by the wildfire devastation in San Diego County. CVS chipped in as well, donating more than $300,000 in supplies, and had established an emergency prescription delivery service. “We are deeply concerned about the impact these fires have had on our customers and employees and we are pleased to aid ongoing relief efforts with these donations,” stated Ronald Day, CVS’ area vice president of California. “We will continue to stay in touch with relief officials and provide any additional assistance that is needed.”
Other retailers have ramped up efforts to help dozens of evacuation centers set up across the county in places like Qualcomm and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The National Association of Chain Drug Stores issued a release commending its member companies. “Their response includes continuing pharmacy operations, but also the contributions of financial resources, products and services to the people in the evacuated areas. Their humanitarian efforts are consistent with their day-to-day commitment to patient and customer care, as well as with their swift and vital responses to prior tragedies, including Hurricane Katrina,” president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson stated.
Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill said the company has been shipping products to local relief agencies to help displaced residents. “We’re working with the San Diego Food Bank and sending them products they need to help firefighters and people in temporary shelters,” said Massingill.
Supervalu spokeswoman Haley Meyer said Albertsons stores have been doing the same and donating products “to provide support to evacuation centers as well as on-site support.” Those evacuation centers are slowing starting to empty as the fires are put out and residents return to their homes.
Surprisingly, retailers have been able to conduct business as usual despite the mass evacuations. Walgreens reported that none of its stores were closed and others like Costco reported having to just shut down one store for just a few hours. Supervalu said that it had to close two Albertsons stores during the height of the fires Tuesday and Safeway reported that a “handful of stores” were forced to close but that most are now open.
But residents may be dealing with another problem later in the week. Shifting winds are expected to blow much of the smoke and ash carried out over the Pacific Ocean on Monday and Tuesday back onshore. Emergency rooms across the county are already dealing with a growing number of patients reporting respiratory problems from smoke that’s been as thick as fog in some areas.