Retail leaders rally to fight retail crime

Retail Gets Real episode 325: NRF’s David Johnston on the problem of organized retail crime and how retailers are advocating for action
Sheryll Poe
NRF Contributor

In October, NRF brought together representatives from more than 30 retail brands for a day of advocacy and action on Capitol Hill to raise awareness and fight back against organized retail crime.

The Fight Retail Crime Day fly-in was a huge success, with 70 retail attendees participating in 65 meetings with congressional offices on that one day, according to David Johnston, NRF’s vice president of asset protection and retail operations.

David Johnston, NRF’s vice president of asset protection and retail operations.
NRF’s Vice President of Asset Protection and Retail Operations David Johnston.

“For most asset protection leaders, including myself, we’ve never participated in a visit to Congress, so we had no idea what to expect when we got to Capitol Hill,” Johnston says on this episode of Retail Gets Real. “I think our initial goal was to get probably about 20 asset protection leaders, because this is not something that they normally talk about in public venues … and the results really far exceeded our expectation.”

Johnston and the retailers were on the Hill to push for passage of the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act, a bipartisan bill introduced in both the House and Senate last year.

The bill will establish an Organized Retail Crime Coordination Center led by Homeland Security, Johnston says. It would also amend Title 18 of the U. S. Criminal Code, adding a dollar threshold and time period to organized theft.

“It’s the next necessary next step … that’s going to help us reduce what we’re seeing today,” Johnston says. “It’s going to provide stronger, structured law enforcement and retailer collaboration, and it’s going to bring the tools and the resources to really go after the heads and the hierarchies of these groups that are bringing the daily theft and violence to the doorsteps of our retailers in our communities.”

There are many misconceptions about ORC, Johnston says, including that it’s just shoplifting.

“Shoplifting can occur whether it’s someone who has to steal for personal need or can occur in support of organized retail crime,” Johnston says. “We fully believe the levels we’re seeing today — the frequency of thefts, the quantity of items being stolen — it’s for the latter. It’s supporting organized retail crime … the organized effort by individuals or through a structured hierarchy of roles to steal goods for the sole purpose of reselling those goods for profit.”

Organized Retail Crime

Learn more about organized retail crime and how you can help fight the issue.

ORC is a crime that impacts everyone every day, no matter their political affiliation, Johnston says. “Those were some of the stories that we talked about when we got to the Hill — really focusing on the impact of the individuals, whether they be the consumer, the employee, the shopkeeper, or even law enforcement and asset protection — what they have to deal with every day.”

In addition to the fly-in, NRF sent a letter to Congress signed by 73 retail companies, along with 6,300 messages from retail advocates and employees showing their support and asking members of Congress to pass the bill. “It far exceeded our initial expectations,” Johnston says. “It was a great experience, and we know it’s going to do good in our continued fight against organized retail crime.”

Listen to the full episode to learn more about Fight Retail Crime Day, how organized retail crime is impacting retailers, and how retailers are advocating for action around this issue. Then, visit to learn more about how you can get involved and make a difference.


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