Organized Retail Crime: Don’t Pay for the Crimes of Others

Organized Retail Crime: Don’t Pay for the Crimes of Others

By Sean Sportun

Retail theft has long been seen as a victimless crime; however, it costs retail businesses approximately $5-billion a year, resulting in higher prices paid by consumers. 

Shoplifting as most know it continues to evolve into a more lucrative criminal enterprise with organized groups of professional thieves stealing or fraudulently obtaining billions of dollars in retail merchandise to resell back into the marketplace.

This activity, known as organized retail crime, continues to be a growing concern for retailers across Canada, across North America and has even become a transnational issue. 

In addition to defrauding retailers, threatening employees, and increasing costs to the consumer – many of these organized retail crime networks use their ill-gotten gains to fund other criminal activities like human trafficking, drug trafficking, and gun and gang activity. 

What’s more concerning is the potential public health and safety concerns involved – for example, some products commonly stolen for resale include infant formula, over-the-counter medications and other health and beauty products; which may be expired, repackaged, or improperly stored or handled before reaching the consumer. 

Recognizing the critical importance partnerships hold in the prevention of crime and the positive impact such collaborative actions can have on protecting the vital interests of a community, Toronto Crime Stoppers has partnered with GardaWorld, the Retail Council of Canada, and the creative team at The Community Agency to develop a proactive campaign to bring awareness to the issue of organized retail crime.

The focus of the initiative is straightforward – create awareness in the community on the growing issue of retail theft, let the offenders know the retail industry is taking action and lastly, provide citizens with a conduit to relay anonymous information of those involved in this crime to the police by calling Crime Stoppers. This includes those who knowingly purchase these stolen items. 

The awareness campaign will comprise of a selection of out of home advertisements, social media ads and radio public service announcements. 

Understanding this crime is not isolated to just the city of Toronto, Toronto Crime Stoppers strategically designed the campaign in a manner to be used generically by Crime Stoppers programs and police services across Canada if they are interested. 

This collaborative approach is aligned with the 2023 Crime Stoppers Month theme of “Stand Up-Stand Together.”

At the official media launch of the campaign, Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw, emphasized the value of anonymous tips that “help our investigators make arrests.” 

“The Toronto Police Service is committed to supporting Toronto Crime Stoppers, and we will continue efforts to improve community safety by raising awareness about organized retail crime, and importantly, the ways to report criminal activity anonymously through Crime Stoppers. Community safety is a shared responsibility,” said Demkiw.

By working together with aggressive campaigns like this, Toronto Crime Stoppers and the retail industry will continue to make a difference in the prevention of crime at their locations. 

Community safety is a shared responsibility. We must all work together with a collaborative goal to make a difference in the prevention of crime while enhancing the overall safety of our community. 

Toronto Crime Stoppers is committed in our efforts to mobilize the community to see it, say it, stop it, for a safer Toronto. 

Doing the right thing, truly, is its own reward. 

Remember, you remain anonymous – criminals don’t. 

With nearly three decades in the corporate security Industry, Sean Sportun is a true security afficionado and has been recognized globally for his industry achievements. Sean is currently the vice president, national accounts & community engagement for GardaWorld Canada; prior to that he spent 15years leading Circle K’s central Canada loss prevention department.

A graduate of the Seneca College Law Enforcement Program with Honours, Sean also holds two separate certificates on leadership and management from Queens University. He has attained certifications as a Crime Prevention Through Crime Prevention (CPTED) Level II practitioner, situation awareness specialist advanced practitioner and achieved the designation of international crime prevention specialist. Sean is also a current associate member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

As a direct result of Sean’s involvement and dedication to community safety he has received several prestigious accolades; most notably the key to the city of Baton Rouge for his hurricane Katrina relief efforts in 2005, his selection as the 2013 Canadian Security Magazine’s security director of the year and the 2016 Mission 500 humanitarian award (the first Canadian to achieve this honor). In 2019, Sean was selected by Security Magazine as one of the most influential people in security and also received the 2019 community leader award from Canadian Security Magazine. In 2021, he was a nominee for the Ontario Premier’s Award. Recently, Sean was once again recognized on the international stage, being ranked number one globally by IFSEC Global “top influencers” for the commercial security end users’ category; awarded the sovereign’s medal for volunteers by the Governor General of Canada and most recently he was awarded the OSPA lifetime achievement award.

Sean’s innovative vision has been the focus of Harvard University’s School of Business which recently published two business reviews on his approach towards retail crime prevention.

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