Organized Retail Crime (ORC): A Rose By Any Other Name?

When one reads many of the articles and press releases about ORC, it is easy to feel as if we are talking about one precise type of crime or offense.  However, as we put our research together, one of the difficulties we quickly ran into was the fundamental question of “What is ORC?”  It seems as if it means many different things to different people.  A colleague of mine was at a conference in Boston last year on ORC and three retailers in a row presented on the topic and each one had a different definition.  Here are some of the criteria we heard cited during our interviews and research:

  • Any shoplifting incident over $500
  • Shoplifting for resell
  • Any shoplifting that is not for personal use
  • theft or fraud with the intent to convert to financial gain
  • more than 2 people involved in the theft

Recent articles and discussion have also focused on how cases involving employees get classified.  If an employee gets caught “sweethearting” goods to a friend is that a simple internal theft case or is it ORC?  Articles in trade magazines over the past five years have also suggested that burglaries, robberies, and cargo theft should be included in the ORC bucket.  Should credit card fraud rings be included, as well?  What about individuals who create false bar codes to obtain lower prices?  What about a single individual who goes to the local A&F store, steals four pairs of jeans, keeps two pairs for himself, and sells the other two pairs to a buddy of his for $10 each?  Is that ORC?

Is having a precise definition of ORC necessary?  Maybe not, but there is a need for some consistency especially when legislation is being considered at both state and federal levels.  In our report, we highlight the common elements that seem to be coalescing from the trade associations and legislative efforts.  We would be interested to hear from you about what you think the definition should be and how it is distinguished from other categories of theft.

3 Responses to Organized Retail Crime (ORC): A Rose By Any Other Name?
  1. Charlie Maier
    July 31, 2009 | 6:06 AM

    When I first entered this profession back in the early 80’s, we referred to this same activity as “professional
    shoplifters” and the “ORC” groups of today really dont behave that much differently than the groups of 25 years ago. The main difference is the technology. Their current use of cellphones and the internet was not available.

    I also feel that a better tactic than new laws is to strengthen the existing laws for larceny, consipracy and RICO so that it becomes less burdensome for the victims to prove their cases.

    I find it interesting that some consider any theft over $500 an “ORC” incident. If we us Dr. Hollinger’s average DE case amount for internals, then the majority of employee cases are ORC??

    What we have done today is just given an exotic name to a long standing problem?

    That is my point of view. Would love to hear from others.

    Charlie Maier

    • wpalmer
      July 31, 2009 | 7:03 AM


      Good points and we did hear some of your same points when doing our research. To extend your point, if we use the definition “theft or fraud with the intent to convert to financial gain” in the strictest sense, that means the cashier who works at the service desk who gets behind on their credit card bills and starts doing false refunds and pocketing the cash is commiting “ORC.”

      On the $500 issue, the person who used that definition confined that to shoplifting, not DE’s. But, your point is not lost especially since recent articles have suggested that many employee cases are ORC related. Also, with the $500 threshold on shoplifting, that would mean one individual who goes into a location and steals $500 in merchandise for their own personal use would be classified ORC.

      In today’s post, I will talk about the issue of whether ORC is a growing problem or not. Thanks for taking the time to comment and I hope others will do the same.

  2. Karen VanBrunt
    July 31, 2009 | 6:10 PM

    ORC will always be a topic of debate down to the name. Some call it ORC some call it ORT (organized retail theft). At the end of the day it’s all the same. They way it’s defined depends on the state and the terminology they prefer to use. It also depends on laws already on the books that deal with similar issues such as shoplifting. If that state has a strong shoplifting law then the proposed ORC bill needs to be more defined and specific and stand out. It can NOT be similar to another law already in place or no politician will sponsor it. That is where the bullet points listed above come in, such as over $500, more than 2 people, is in possession of an item list etc.

    I have 30yrs of Loss Prevention experience and had the opportunity to be on a committee that was instrumental in getting not 1 but 2 such laws passed in the State of Delaware. I can not even begin to tell you the educational part of this but also how many re-writes we had to go through before it was excepted; due in part to oppositions, such as E-bay and similarities to other current laws.

    As far as the other very good points mentioned that included credit card fraud/cloning, cargo theft etc. these items are covered under other laws and I personally prefer they stay there for the simple fact the penalties are much stiffer then they are under ORC laws.

    In closing I think the industry has done a fantastic job in bringing this topic to the level and attention that it has today. But the fight is not over, now that there are laws in place it’s getting law enforcement to use those laws when presented with cases. Looking forward to other view points.