Ohio retails welcome potential help with organized retail crime

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(The Center Square) – Retailers across Ohio could get help with the growing national concern of organized retail theft.

A new study from the National Retail Federation showed 80% of retailers believe organized retail crime is more of a priority than a year ago. Legislation planned in the Ohio General Assembly would give law enforcement the power to deal with the growing trend.

The Force Act, expected from Rep. Haraz N. Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, would update state law and policies to let officers and prosecutors respond to organized retail theft.

“Ohio is not going to tolerate our retailers and communities being preyed upon by organized theft rings,” said Ghanbari. “We are not going to stand idly by. The Force Act prioritizes the safety and well-being of Ohio retailers and their customers. This legislation is a comprehensive approach to the complex challenge of organized retail crime.”

Gordon Gough, president and CEO of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, welcomed the help.

“Far more than this financial impact, the Force Act also addresses Ohioans’ growing concern over violence and safety for customers and store associates,” Gough said. “This legislation will give Ohio law enforcement officials and our judicial system more tools to apprehend and punish criminals while protecting consumers and retailers. We look forward to working with Ohio leaders to tackle this problem effectively.”

The NRF study showed external theft, including organized retail theft, accounted for an average of 36% of total loss for retailers.

“Retailers are seeing unprecedented levels of theft coupled with rampant crime in their stores, and the situation is only becoming more dire,” said David Johnston, with the National Retail Federation. “Far beyond the financial impact of these crimes, the violence and concerns over safety continue to be the priority for all retailers, regardless of size or category.”

Across the country, lawmakers are taking aim at organized retail theft.

Florida officials recently busted an organized retail theft ring they say caused more than $20 million in losses to more than 20 different retailers statewide, including Walmart, Target, Publix, Home Depot, Lowes, several pharmacies, major department stores and small businesses including pool supply stores and music businesses.

Michigan and Arizona prosecutors also recently announced significant busts in similar rings.

Also, Target announced in late September it was closing nine stores effective Oct. 21 across four states due to theft and organized retail crime. The cities were New York, Seattle, San Francisco/Oakland and Portland.

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