New Public Effort is Intended to Help Stop Organized Retail Crime
(Phoenix) – Battling Organized Retail Crime has been a top priority for Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell since her very first days in office. Today, the County Attorney unveiled a new ‘Safe Shopping’ campaign, an effort to stop this fast-growing category of lawlessness.
Organized Retail Crime (ORC) is not shoplifting. Rather than the one-off theft of a single item, Organized Retail Crime occurs when groups scheme together to steal a large amount of merchandise with the intent to re-sell it. In many cases, thieves will travel from out of state to commit multiple offenses throughout Maricopa County, then sell the stolen merchandise online.
Retailers use the term ‘shrink’ to describe their losses over time. In 2022, that shrink amounted to more than $112 billion nationwide. While shrink can be attributed to other causes, it is primarily the result of theft, including organized retail crime. Here in Maricopa County, in 2022, MCAO received 301 cases of ORC from local police agencies. Cases for 2023 will easily surpass that number.
County Attorney Mitchell has been clear: she will not allow this category of criminal activity to grow deep roots here.
“We have been successfully putting these criminal groups behind bars. For example, there was the man who stole more than $75,000 in cigarettes from one convenience store chain. He is now in prison. Just last week, we indicted two California women who stole thousands in merchandise from twelve retailers in six cities in Maricopa County,” said Mitchell. “Here’s what I say to the thieves who commit these crimes: we will find you, you will be arrested, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
In July 2022, County Attorney Mitchell created the Organized Retail Crime Taskforce at MCAO to foster greater communication and collaboration among law enforcement and retailers in Maricopa County. The new Safe Shopping campaign announced today is an extension of the Taskforce. It will expand the partnership by asking the public to be aware of these crimes, to report them, and to take steps to keep themselves informed and safe.
County Attorney Mitchell was joined for the announcement by Monica Garnes, the President of Fry’s Food Stores, and Michelle Ahlmer of the Arizona Retailers Association.
“Fry’s Food Stores is grateful to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, County Attorney Mitchell, and local law enforcement for their commitment to help Arizona retailers combat this terrible crime,” said Monica Garnes of Fry’s. “The safety of our associates and customers is our top priority and we’re committed to doing anything we can to support our partners in bringing these thieves to justice.”
“The retailers in Arizona want everyone to enjoy their time as they visit and shop during this busy time of year. County Attorney Mitchell is at the forefront of combatting Organized Retail Crime and we applaud her – and all of MCAO – for their efforts in holding these offenders accountable,” said Michelle Ahlmer from the Arizona Retailers Association.
The County Attorney’s Office has a designated Organized Retail Crime page where you can find recent prosecutions, news and updates from the office, and information on national trends when it comes to this type of crime.
Here are a few general tips from MCAO and from retailers, designed to help you put Safe Shopping into action:
- Be patient with retailers. While it might take an extra minute to get an item (decongestants, for example) from behind a locked display, it’s worth it. Know you’re doing your part to keep prices low and keep crooks at bay.
- Never engage with thieves. If you’re suspicious, reach out to a store manager. Never confront a thief on your own.
- Keep your personal items locked up. If you carry a handbag, keep it closed and close to you. If you leave purchases in your car between shopping stops, make sure that vehicle is locked up tight.
 National Retail Federation National Retail Security Survey 2023.