Proposed Legislation Would Create Organized Retail Crime Unit at DOJ

Proposed Legislation Would Create Organized Retail Crime Unit at DOJ

H.R. 5932, the Organized Retail Theft Investigation and Prosecution Act of 2010, introduced in late July in the U.S. House of Representatives, would establish a new unit at the Department of Justice (DOJ) that focuses on investigating and prosecuting organized retail crime.

“Coupled with existing programs at the local, state, and federal levels, this bill is one of the keys to protecting both retailers and consumers against the massive economic costs and very real public health and safety risks posed by these crimes,” said Joe LaRocca, senior asset protection advisor at the National Retail Federation (NRF), which supports this legislation.

The legislation would create an Organized Retail Theft Investigation and Prosecution Unit in the DOJ, which would be staffed with investigators, prosecutors, and other personnel as necessary. The unit would investigate and prosecute those instances of organized retail crime over which the DOJ has jurisdiction, assist state and local law enforcement agencies, and advise crime victims.

Under the bill, “organized retail theft” would be defined as obtaining retail merchandise by illegal means for the purpose of reselling or otherwise placing such merchandise back into the stream of commerce, aiding or abetting the commission of such acts, or conspiring to commit such acts.

In addition, the attorney general would be required to submit a report containing recommendations on how retailers, online businesses, and law enforcement agencies can help to prevent and combat organized retail crime to the Judiciary Committee and post the report on the DOJ’s Web site. The bill would also authorize $5 million per year for fiscal years 2011 through 2015 to fund the new program.

Retailers lose between $15 and $30 billion to organized retail crime each year, according to the FBI and retail loss prevention experts. In addition, 89 percent of retailers reported that they were victims of an organized retail crime in the past year, according to an annual NRF survey released earlier this year.