The U.S. Chamber of Commerce – the world's largest business organization – is imploring Congress to step up enforcement against rampant retail theft.
In a letter to Congress, the organization outlined specific actions – including passing legislation seeking to stop the resale of stolen goods — that it hopes policymakers will take to tackle the "significant increase in retail theft and organized retail crime" impacting large and small businesses across the nation.
U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley cited a recent survey indicating that 54% of small business owners experienced an increase in shoplifting in 2021.
Meanwhile, another survey conducted by the National Retail Federation showed that larger retailers lost an average of more than $700,000 per $1 billion in sales in 2020 due to organized retail crime. That's an increase of more than 50% in the last five years.
These crimes are not only affecting businesses, but harming the entire community, according to Bradley.
"These crimes are not victimless," he said. "In addition to the growing number of thefts that turn violent, innocent consumers, employees, local communities, and business owners and shareholders bear the costs of rising retail theft."
As a result, 25% of businesses raised prices in order to offset losses, according to Bradley. Some businesses were even forced to close in response to these crimes, he added.
The organization wants Congress to pass the "Integrity, Notification, and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for (INFORM) Consumers Act" to prevent stolen goods from being resold on online marketplaces.
The legislation would "increase transparency and identity verification of high-volume third-party sellers in online retail marketplaces while protecting the privacy of small sellers," according to Bradley.
It would also help to "deter retail crime by closing off a prominent avenue by which criminals seek to profit by selling stolen goods," he added.
The advocacy group also said that the definition of organized retail theft should be updated and that the penalties against such criminals should be stricter.
"States should act to define the crime of ‘organized retail theft’ in criminal law to specify those thefts involving two or more participants and an intention of resale and include increased penalties for those specific violations," Bradley said.
A majority of states have also raised the thresholds for the value of stolen goods to trigger a felony charge, which "criminals are taking advantage of," according to Bradley.
"States should reconsider these thresholds and prosecutors should avoid adopting broad non-prosecution policies," he argued.