Organized retail crime. Whether you are familiar with the term or not, it is likely you are paying for it.

"Smash and grab" thefts in stores by gangs, or whole groups doing a mass shoplift in a store, or trucks being hijacked en route to a retailer — organized retail crime is showing up with alarming frequency, costing stores — and you the consumer — money.

Craig Shearman, of the National Retail Federation says "100 percent of retailers that we spoke to in the survey had been victims of organized retail theft."

Here's another twist: criminals are manipulating store return policies, and 68 percent of stores in the survey have found thieves trying to return stolen stuff for credit or cash.

The Federation's survey also found that 6 in 10 loss prevention executives around the country said their chains had been hit by organized retail theft.

"The key distinction to this actually is rather than somebody stealing because they need something or just to fence one thing. These are groups of people going out, stealing a lot of stuff with the purpose of reselling it to a 'fence,' who is then going to turn around and sell it to consumers as if it were legitimate merchandise," Shearman said. "Organized retail crime is just another form of organized crime."

Retailers have no choice but to pass their losses along to customers with higher prices. The losses amount to $700,259 for every billion dollars of sales, according to the NRF survey.

The National Retail Federation says 34 states have enacted organized retail crime laws, including New Jersey. They've sought Washington's help, but, Shearman says "Congress has unfortunately moved very slowly on this."

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at

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