NC Agencies Joining Forces To Fight Back Against “Smash and Grab” Crimes


“Smash and Grabs” and organized retail crime will not be tolerated in North Carolina was the message  sent today by representatives of the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA), North  Carolina Conference of District Attorneys (NC CODA), North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association (NCSA),  North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police (NCACP), the North Carolina Information Sharing and  Analysis Center (NC ISAAC) and the Carolinas Organized Retail Crime Alliance (CORCA). These  organizations and the members they represent will work collectively to prevent these crimes and make  certain this criminal activity is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  

Organized retail crime (ORC) is the involvement of two or more persons in illegally obtaining retail  merchandise in substantial quantities, through both theft and fraud, as part of an unlawful commercial  enterprise. Throughout the country, brick-and-mortar retailers have experienced organized retail crime  rings that target their stores and steal thousands of dollars of goods – often smashing windows and  display cases and assaulting store personnel. Organized retail crime now costs retailers an average of  $700,000 per $1 billion in sales and three-fourths of retailers saw an increase in organized retail crime in  2020 according to the National Retail Federation’s 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey. According to  “The Impact of Organized Retail Crime and Product Theft in the United States”: 

  • 86% of retailers surveyed said an ORC subject has verbally threatened an associate,
  • 75.9% said an ORC subject has physically assaulted an associate and 
  • 41% said an ORC subject has used a weapon to harm an associate  

Since the pandemic, societal changes in many cities have also changed the environment for in-store theft: 65  percent of respondents in the 2021 Retail Security Survey conducted by the National Retail Federation said ORC gangs now exhibit greater levels of violence and aggression than they have before. While only 29  percent of retailers reported an average loss of $1,000 in 2019 that number rose to 50 percent in 2020. The  most common items targeted by ORC gangs include designer clothing and handbags, laundry detergent,  allergy medicine, razors, and pain relievers. When targeting high-value items, a small group can make off  with thousands of dollars in merchandise in less than a minute. 

“Many retailers struggled to stay in business during COVID and are just now getting back on their feet  while trying to navigate labor shortages, supply-chain issues and new COVID-19 variants. It is  unfortunate that retailers are having to guard against organized retail crime organizations that target their  businesses” said NCRMA President and General Counsel Andy Ellen. “When these sophisticated  criminal organizations steal from retailers it threatens the ability of the retailer to stay in business and  provide jobs. It also ultimately ends up in higher prices for law abiding consumers. We appreciate all the  law enforcement community does in North Carolina to prevent this criminal activity.” 

“In addition to conducting larceny and breaking and entering operations on a massive scale, organized  retail crime rings are often involved in other criminal activity within the community, including drug  related crimes, money laundering and human trafficking just to name a few. Our 100 Sheriffs’ offices  across the State recognize the seriousness of these crimes and are committed to working with others in  law enforcement and district attorneys to put these brazen criminals behind bars,” Sheriff Ed McMahon,  president of the NC Sheriffs’ Association stated. 

In North Carolina, a person is guilty of a Class H felony if they conspire with another person to steal  more than $1,500 worth of merchandise combined from one or more retail establishments over a ninety day period. The crime is elevated to a Class G felony if a person conspires to steal more than $20,000 of  merchandise from one or more retail establishments over a ninety-day period.  

“Our district attorneys have strong tools to prosecute members of organized retail crime organizations  should they try to carry out “smash and grabs” or flash mob shoplifting activities in North Carolina.  Preventing this activity is key to maintaining safe communities and a strong economy. It’s important for  prosecutors to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on these smash and grab robberies. As prosecutors, we  must stand with our business communities and law enforcement supporting retail merchants and sending  a strong message to would-be thieves,” said Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill who serves as  president of the NC Conference of District Attorneys. 

“Police chiefs place great emphasis on stopping organized retail crime because of its ties to the illegal  drug trade and other illicit activity. We recognize that criminals are more brazen and violent when  attacking businesses,” the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police said in a statement. “Our  police chiefs don’t want this increased criminal activity to move into our cities and towns in North  Carolina and are working collaboratively with retail loss prevention professionals and others in law  enforcement to stop it.” 

“As the nation’s attention has focused on organized retail crime, NC ISAAC and its national network of  fusion centers will support North Carolina’s local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, law  enforcement associations and major retail associations through information sharing and analytical  support,” said NC ISAAC Director/Special Agent in Charge B.C. Neil.