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Canadian Push 12-15-14


ORC In Canada Gets National Attention - A First in History

Great Article and Background on The ORC Fight & Effort

Organized Retail Crime taking off in Canada - An estimated $4.67B problem annually - Canada's Federal ORC Legislation in Senate  From Toronto's - Toronto Association of Police and Private Security (TAPPS) network to Vancouver's - three-man anti-fencing unit at Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Canada is truly seeing and responding to the increased ORC activity just like their counterparts in the U.S. Over at Mac's Convenience Stores, Sean Spotrun, manager of security and loss prevention for this 560 store chain has seen his share of ORC and recently helped bust a ring that was operating in the Great Toronto Area (GTA) that has also hit Winners.

They work off the highways. They're very transient. They will jump from place to place, from province to province, wherever they feel they can get the biggest bang for their buck," says Sportun. According to a social media campaign last year, consumers paid 20 per cent more for goods as a result of retail theft.

"Things have changed immensely. The organized piece wasn't as big ten years ago. It was prevalent in the U.S., but it was not as big an issue for us. We would have opportunistic theft, now we're dealing with very organized gangs. These guys steal $10,000 to $20,000 a day or more," says Don Berezowski, divisional vice-president, loss prevention and safety for Sears Canada. "We're talking a small percentage of the population here, but they do a lot of damage," says Berezowski.

What we are seeing is more sophistication, more organization," says Toronto Police Services Superintendent Douglas Quan. We can have the same suspect working in Toronto and they show up in Calgary the next week doing the same thing. They're mobile. With rental cars and mobile phones and fraudulent identification and credit cards, it gets multi-layered. It is advancing. They are becoming more sophisticated with each year."

In Toronto, the stolen goods are sold at pop-up events, warehouse sales, flea markets and low-income malls in neighborhoods where people are so busy trying to make ends meet, they won't ask too many questions if the price is low, Quan says. Stolen goods may also show up mixed among legitimate goods at convenience stores and discount stores owned by unscrupulous vendors.

Police and loss prevention experts in Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary are finding innovative ways to crack down on organized retail crime.

In Toronto last year, a joint investigation by loss-prevention officers from Aritzia, the Gap, Mexx and Toronto Police resulted in three arrests in connection with an elaborate and organized shoplifting ring targeting mall stores. Nearly $390,000 in clothing had been stolen and $90,000 in personal items, including shampoo and hand cream, for a grand total of nearly half a million dollars. The stolen goods were allegedly being sold from a semi- detached home in the Jane and Wilson area.

The three-man anti-fencing unit at Vancouver Police Department (VPD) has taken down 53 fencing operations in three years, shutting down underground stores where goods from Aritzia, Costco, the Gap, Holt Renfrew and Sport Chek, among others, were being sold at half price. Fencing organizations often rely on the homeless and addicts to steal for them.

One small business owner in Surrey was able to collect $80,000 worth of pharmaceuticals in two months, buying as much over-the-counter medication, perfume and makeup as he could get from addicts and the homeless. The team has seized $1.7-million in clothing. They have had significant success working with the city to obtain business license suspensions, with more than 20 businesses losing their license for weeks or forever.

Many retailers are victimized every single day, multiple times a day, sometimes in one store, sometimes across different stores in the chain.

Part of the problem is that retail theft is viewed as a low-risk, high-reward crime. The penalties are minimal. Sportun says that even people who offend multiple times are only held for a couple of days before they are out again. He would like to see stiffer penalties. He says criminals know they won't face serious jail time for stealing from a retailer, so they stick to it.

Berezowski of Sears sits on the private-sector liaison committee for the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police. He believes that the growth of organized retail crime in Canada is due in part to the fact that police have more resources to fight drug and gun crimes than they do retail theft. Also, penalties for retail theft are low and the merchandise is quickly converted into cash, especially now, through online sales.

Why now? In the U.S., legislation has been brought in targeting organized retail crime with tougher penalties. We haven't gotten to that point yet," says Berezowski.

There is clearly an issue with the prosecution of what may be, in some people's opinion, a victimless crime," says Stephen O'Keefe, vice-president, operations, for the Retail Council of Canada and a former retail loss prevention executive at Walmart Canada.

The RCC put a case for longer sentences to the federal minister of justice a few years ago, pointing out that no tax is being paid on any of the stolen merchandise, said O'Keefe.

The problem is that most police departments can't afford to assign resources to the investigation of retail crimes, or actively maintain systems like TAPPS or Retail C.O.P. in Calgary.

A bill before the senate would give more flexibility to retail loss prevention officers to share information for the purpose of protecting people against crime.

"The sentencing guidelines are a moot point if you can't get someone convicted for organized retail crime activity," said O'Keefe.

For now, the job is in the hands of a growing cadre of loss prevention professionals, working with police. "These organized crime rings aren't getting scared. It will continue to grow until we are no longer the path of least resistance," says Berezowski. Editor's Note: This is the first time we've seen such an article published in Canada and ORC has obviously become as big of a problem north of the border as it has in the U.S. We'd like to compliment all the teams and these leaders in this article for the work they're doing and for getting the press to cover it and give it such national attention. Good Luck to all the teams in Canada!

Canadian Push 12-15-14
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