STORES Magazine - April 2018 - 43
Organizing Against ORC
Ohio city sees success with retail theft deterrent program
by DAVID P. SCHULZ
rug addicts who were shoplifting
to support their habits sparked a
drive against organized retail crime that
has precipitated a sharp drop in theft
from retailers and related return fraud in
Mentor, about 20 miles northeast of
Cleveland, is the sixth largest retail market
in the state, with annual sales in excess of
$1.5 billion, according to Ante Logarusic,
director of community relations and
marketing for the city. The city is home
to the Great Lakes Mall as well as several
freestanding stores and nationally branded
restaurants clustered along Route 20,
known locally as Mentor Avenue.
"A few years ago, we noticed a trend
where shoplifting was going up," says
Patrolman James C. Collier of the Mentor
Police Department. "When we were
making arrests, [the suspects] were telling
us they were addicts. A lot of them were
The shoplifters would steal merchandise,
return it and get credit in the form of gift
cards. If they sold the stolen goods on
the street, they would get about 50 cents
on the dollar value, Collier says. Gift
cards, on the other hand, could be sold
at pawn shops and "gold and silver"
stores for significantly closer to their
After noting that the police
department's retail theft deterrence
program entered its fourth year at the
start of 2018, Collier recalls its genesis.
"What we did back then was to go
undercover, using an unmarked car
obtained through forfeiture," he says.
That meant mostly sitting in retailers'
parking lots keeping an eye out for
"In the first month, we had 14 arrests
for shoplifting," Collier notes.
Retailers were slow to notice the
growing crime wave. They were naïve
about the theft and retail scams, Collier
says, primarily because Mentor is an
affluent community and not a high crime
area, so the retailers had little experience
with such activity.
As effective as the police efforts were
in combatting retail theft and fraud, it
was also expensive for the department to
implement. They sought assistance from
Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services.
"We didn't have enough funds to
supplement overtime," Collier says,
noting that the officers on the shoplifting
detail were also used on regular patrol.
With funds from the state, the Mentor
Police Department could keep officers
on shoplifting surveillance while other
officers covered their regular patrol
assignments on overtime.
The grant money has made a big
difference, Collier says.
"We've long had a dialogue with
retailers. If a shoplifter was arrested
or stopped by a retailer loss prevention
associate, the police were called after all
the paperwork was completed," he says.
"Then, after we got the grant in 2015,
we reached out, setting up meetings
and compiling a mailing list. The large
retailers and Great Lakes Mall security
showed up. That was when we began
developing a definitive strategy."
Generating informative communications
is a key part of the strategy.
"If an individual were arrested, we
would issue a bulletin containing a photo,
the individual's name and circumstances
of the arrest," Collier says. "If the
individual had been apprehended by
an LP associate and/or he had prior
convictions, that also goes into the
STORES April 2018 43