Circuit City and Wal-Mart are the latest retailers to join the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), a secure national database that allows merchants to share information on organized retail crime with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and with each other.
The Web-based program, launched in April, was developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in collaboration with the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) to help retailers fight back against burglaries, robberies, counterfeiting and online auction fraud perpetrated by organized theft rings.
"Organized theft rings steal billions of dollars of merchandise every year, which victimizes retailers, endangers the safety of retail employees, and raises the price of consumer goods," said Joseph LaRocca, NRF's loss prevention VP.
According to NRF's 2006 Organized Retail Crime survey, 81 percent of retailers said they have been a victim of organized retail crime. The group's 2007 report, released last month, found that 71 percent of retailers have noticed an increase in criminal activity in the past 12 months, compared with 48 percent last year. The FBI estimates annual retail losses to organized retail theft at $30 billion.
Total retail shrinkage reached $41.6 billion in 2006, NRF reports.
The system, programmed by ABC Virtual of West Des Moines, Iowa, uses a secure Web interface for data entry, viewing and queries of incidents. Retailers can report information about suspects, getaway vehicles and identification numbers of stolen products, and can post photos and video footage to help law enforcement discern crime patterns.
Circuit City and Wal-Mart join a long list of participating retailers including GameStop, JCPenney, Kohl's, Macy's and Sears. The annual cost to participate is $1,200.