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Biggs has seen a lot while dealing with retail crime, but says the surge in organized retail crime (ORC) over the past few years presents new challenges for retailers who are confronted with teams of criminals engaged in a wide range of illicit activity from shoplifting to armed robbery. The illegally acquired goods are peddled through various internet auction sites, unlawful bodegas, and flea markets or by nefarious middlemen posing as professional diverters who sell the stolen merchandise back to legitimate retail establishments.
The D&D Daily sat down with Biggs to get his take on the history and trends regarding ORC:
Q: The National Retail Federation says Organized Retail Crime (ORC) costs the retail sector nearly $30 billion each year. Do you feel you are in the right place, at the right time, to deal with the crimes associated with these startling statistics?
A: Absolutely, ORC can affect retail areas ranging from inventory shrink, sales, company brands, and the safety of employees.
Q: Can you give a little background on the Walgreens ORC task force?
A: We have a team of investigators and each investigator is assigned a territory consisting of multiple states. Within each territory are Points-of-Contact (POC) which support the investigators with their investigations and initiatives.
Q: What do you mean by “Points-of-Contact”?
A: AP Directors in each region assign one or more of their AP Managers the additional responsibility of serving as their region’s ORC Point-of-Contact. We leverage these contacts as the “face” of the investigation in that particular part of the country. Should investigations cross multiple jurisdictions or require more specialized investigative efforts, the ORC Division will become fully engaged with the investigation and converge into the area.
Q: Can you explain some of the complexities if a case spans more than one law enforcement jurisdiction?
A: Most ORC investigations cross multiple jurisdictions and are best tackled by either a federal or statewide taskforce. To gain that high level of LE engagement, a retail investigator must construct a clear, fact-based report depicting the motive, scope, and magnitude of the loss. This task can be difficult if the proper protocols and partnerships are not already in place.
Q: The recent NRSS/Hollinger report says that external theft is bigger than internal theft. What do you think is driving the rise in this type of crime? Is it ORC? Do you think organized retail crime will continue to increase?
A: I feel there are several contributing factors to the rise in ORC. However, not assigning fault with Dr. Hollinger, I believe the impact of external theft has always been grossly under-estimated. With that said, the slow economy and high demand for less expensive goods, combined with an array of outlets to peddle them, are likely the largest contributors. I feel retail theft will continue to be the crime of choice among carrier criminals as long as the rewards outweigh the risk of capture or punishment.
Q: What do you think are some of the factors for this rise in ORC activity?
A: As I stated earlier, I feel there are several contributing factors to the rise of ORC. The crime has vastly become the crime of choice of carrier criminals due to high profits and the low risk of being captured and sentenced to any significant jail time.
Q: A 2014 National Retail Federation study reported that eight of ten retailers said they were victims of organized retail theft in the past year. Do you see the deluge of stolen products back into the market as a growing challenge for Loss Prevention?
A: It’s unfortunate, but it is getting common place to see retailers buying back their own stolen products because they fail to have/enforce protocols to prevent this type of behavior or educate their staff on the subject matter. Of course, this lack of a spotlight on the crime just perpetuates the problem and incentivizes the criminals.
Q: Who are these modern criminals engaging in retail theft?
A: I classify thieves into three categories:
It has been my experience that opportunist thievery makes up the majority of theft events, however prolific thieves and criminals engaging in ORC account for the majority of inventory losses.
Q: So what can retailers do to prevent criminals from hurting their business?
A: I have no simple answer to this question. A decade ago, I would have said good sales floor coverage and customer service would deter most thieves. However, these actions seem to have little effect on the prolific or professional thief of today.
Q: Tell me your opinion about recent state and federal legislations and the emergence of ORC associations around the country. What do these changes say about the impact of ORC on the retail industry? Do you think we need a national ORC association?
A: We continue to make progress to get state legislation passed. However, the industry lacks consistent and credible data. Until this situation changes, I doubt we will be able to get a federal bill passed. A central hub or national association to bring all the various ORC associations together could prove very beneficial in uncovering the true scope of the problem.
Q: If you could wave a magic wand and solve one problem regarding ORC overnight, what would it be?
A: Obviously, I would want the problem to go away, but I don’t think that’s the answer you want. I guess I would want all retailer brands clearly embedded on the product they sell. It wouldn’t necessarily get rid of the problem in its entirety, but it would certainly cause a significant impact on the ease of engaging in retail crime.
Q: If retailers understand the magnitude of the problem, what should they do?
A: That’s a complicated question and there’s no easy fix for the challenges presented by ORC. However, I believe knowing the magnitude of the problem would cause retailers to come together and allocate appropriate resources to address the problem.
Q: What keeps you up at night?
A: My snoring. Just kidding, but in terms of ORC, I worry about the industry going backwards. There are so many other C-level initiatives gaining focus right now, that external theft and its impact on the bottom line might be overlooked. Of course, I’m here to say, it should never be overlooked.
Biggs definitely takes his role at Walgreens seriously and continues to fight ORC for the betterment of the retail industry and, ultimately, the overall safety of our country.
An Interview with Jerry Biggs, Director,
Organized Retail Crime Division at Walgreens
- By Amber Bradley
As Director, Organized Retail Crime Division at Walgreens, Jerry Biggs has a self-described “knack” for solving retail crime. Maybe it’s just in his blood?
Biggs is definitely not new to the security and law enforcement industry. He hails from a proud family of five generations of law enforcement officers. Biggs was working for a sheriff’s department in northern Indiana, and was also a part-time, plain clothes store detective when he broke with family tradition and accepted a position as an executive bodyguard out west. Luckily for the retail industry, Biggs was sidelined by love during a stop in Houston when he met his future wife and where he began his career in retail loss prevention.
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