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November 15, 2023Jackson, MS, United StatesFinancial Crimes

HSI Jackson holds first state Organized Retail Crime Alliance meeting

JACKSON, Miss. — In advance of the holiday shopping season, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Jackson, Mississippi, and the newly formed Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama Organized Retail Crime Alliance (ORCA), held its first strategic planning meeting for the state of Mississippi on Nov. 14. Their efforts are designed to combat organized theft groups by targeting domestic and transnational criminal organizations that profit from organized retail crime (ORC).

The four-state Organized Retail Crime Alliance connects federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutors, as well as financial and retail industry partners, from all four states. The ORCA initiative is part of a larger nationwide strategic partnership for HSI to identify, investigate and prosecute organized retail crime.

The alliance provides a multifaceted approach to disrupt and dismantle organized theft groups through partnerships, investigations and consumer awareness. Organized theft groups (OTG) are sophisticated criminal organizations that profit from illegally obtaining goods that are later sold for economic gain, such as through cargo theft, organized retail crime and other theft and fraud-related criminal activities.

Attendees included representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Southern and Northern District, the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, the Madison Police Department, the Office of the Governor of Mississippi, Starkville Police Department, Hattiesburg Police Department, Jackson Capitol Police, Vicksburg Police Department and Flowood Police Department. Mississippi retail partners included representatives from Target, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Bass Pro Shop, Rouses and Academy Sports.

“Organized retail crime goes beyond simply shoplifting, and it isn’t a victimless crime. It costs U.S. businesses billions of dollars every year and often local communities bear the costs of rising prices, leading to retail deserts in which underserved communities lose proximity to grocery stores, pharmacies and other retail outlets,” said HSI New Orleans acting Special Agent in Charge Eric DeLaune. “Organized theft groups have become emboldened, stealing in broad daylight and resorting to violence, leading to higher prices, lost jobs and an unsafe environment for shoppers and employees. HSI is proud to partner with other law enforcement agencies, federal prosecutors and the retail industry to combat organized retail crime.”

According to the 2021 joint report released by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and the Buy Safe America Coalition, in 2019, nearly $70 billion in goods were stolen from retailers. As staggering as this number is, it doesn’t account for loss related to cargo theft nor the uptick in ORC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“By partnering with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and other retail industry partners, we significantly amplify our ability to not only share intelligence and resources, but locate and investigate organized retail crime, which costs federal and state governments nearly $15 billion in lost tax revenue,” said Chris Schkade, LAMA ORCA chairman. “During this inaugural state meeting, we had two retailers realize they were dealing with the same repeat criminal theft operator which is a testament to how we can combat violent retail crime when we work together.”

In fiscal year (FY) 2021, HSI initiated 59 ORC investigations, representing a 211 percent increase from 19 investigations initiated in FY 2020, and accounting for 61 criminal arrests, 55 indictments, 59 cases initiated, and $9,287,757 in assets seized. Organized Retail Theft has been responsible for nearly $70 billion in retail merchandise being stolen from businesses in 2019; ORC results in $125.7 billion in lost economic activity; E-Commerce platforms are repeatedly being utilized to re-sell stolen merchandise.

“Governor Reeves strongly supports the retail industry in Mississippi. All across our great state, retailers are investing capital and creating jobs; which has helped to build a record-breaking economy,” said Nick Miller, advisor to Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves. “Organized retail crime costs billions of dollars. It causes businesses to close and raises prices for consumers. The governor stands with our business community and the tremendous men and women of Mississippi law enforcement. We will not tolerate organized retail crime in Mississippi. We encourage any and all retailers looking to relocate out of high crime states; to consider moving to Mississippi.”

HSI’s partnerships with private industry groups, such as the Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR), the National Retail Federation (NRF), the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA), and others, remain an imperative component to the overarching success of efforts to counter OTGs systematically disrupting interstate and foreign commerce.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS, responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Updated: 11/15/2023