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Shoplifting by organized retail crime rings is on the rise

tide detergent
Mark Lennihan
FILE - This Monday, Oct. 31, 2005 file photo shows Tide laundry detergent on a shelf at a New York supermarket. Tide has become a hot commodity for thieves, at least in parts of the country. For a variety of reasons, it's especially well-suited to sale on the black market. Everybody needs laundry detergent, and Tide is the nation's most popular brand. It's expensive, costing up to $20 for a large bottle. It's nonperishable, and there's no need to repackage it for illicit sales.

That really good deal you found online may in fact be hot merchandise stolen by organized retail crime rings. Shrinking profits at Kroger are in part due to rising levels of theft.

That really good deal you found online may in fact be hot merchandise stolen by organized retail crime rings. They work year-round, not just during the holidays, to make money. Some of the more popular items they steal and sell include P&G’s Tide and Mach 3 razors, according to UC adjunct professor Karl Langhorst, who used to oversee Kroger’s retail asset protection and others. He also was asked by Procter & Gamble to talk to European stores about such theft to sell its products.

“This isn’t a shoplifting issue. This is an organized crime issue that has multiple tentacles and impact potentially the life of citizens in Cincinnati,” says Langhorst.

In the most recent Kroger earnings call, CEO Rodney McMullen talked about rising levels of theft.

It and a host of other stores were victims in an organized crime ring run by a father and daughter in Georgia. They and their employees stole billions of dollars of stuff over a decade and resold it on the internet.

In another brazen crime, a Kentucky man walked out with an entire jewelry display at Kohl’s in Georgetown, Ky.

Part of the problem is a patchwork of state laws that let some shoplifters off easy. Langhorst is pushing for federal laws and testified before a U.S. House subcommittee.

He says many cities are in denial there is an organized retail crime problem. “It may not have reached the level of Los Angeles yet, or Chicago, but it is happening here (Cincinnati) and it absolutely impacts you.”

A 2020 survey by the National Retail Federation reports organized retail crime issues continue to pose a problem with major retailers reporting over $60 million in losses.

Ann Thompson has years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology