In response to an alarming rise in organized retail crime, the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, in collaboration with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have teamed up to launch the Law Enforcement Retail Partnership Network (LERPnet), a secure national database that will allow retailers to share information through its unique web-based design. With LERPnet, retailers and law enforcement will be able to fight back against illegal activity including organized retail crime, burglaries, robberies, counterfeiting, and online auction fraud. The database will launch on April 9, 2007.
“Organized theft rings steal billions of dollars of merchandise every year, which victimizes retailers, endangers the safety of retail employees, and raises the price of consumer goods,” said Joseph LaRocca, NRF vice president of loss prevention. “With this system, retailers are banding together with law enforcement to send a clear message to criminals: We will not tolerate your behavior and we will stop you.”
LERPnet is expected to become the national standard for sharing retail crime information in a secure and confidential manner, giving companies and law enforcement the ability to collaborate like never before. For more than two years, an extraordinary group of retailers, law enforcement, data privacy specialists and technology experts have combined resources and talent to create the technology platform.
According to NRF’s 2006 Organized Retail Crime survey, 81 percent of retailers said they have been a victim of organized retail crime. Nearly half (48%) of those polled also had seen an increase in organized retail crime activity in their stores.
How LERPnet works Hypothetical scenario:
Retailer A is burglarized of 40 laptops. Later that afternoon, the same criminals enter a neighboring state along the same highway corridor and steal dozens of notebook computers from Retailer B. Retailer C, along the same highway but in a different county, is victimized that evening. Under the current system, the incidents are reported separately to local police officers. Law enforcement in different counties and states often does not know about similar nearby incidents since the crime did not occur in their jurisdiction. If a pattern is ever recognized, it is often too late: the thieves have sold the items to a fence operator or have sold them on an online auction site. With LERPnet, retailers will be able to communicate with other companies and law enforcement about crimes occurring in their stores. Companies can report the theft and include information about suspects, getaway vehicles, and identification numbers of stolen products.
In their report, retailers can also include photos and video footage to assist in the detention of and prosecution of criminals. Immediately, retailers and law enforcement should be able to connect the dots and suspect that these incidents were related. Because LERPnet allows retailers to share information with law enforcement agencies nationwide, detectives will have the opportunity of researching crimes in neighboring cities, counties and states.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Brian Nadeau, program manager for the FBI’s Organized Retail Theft program, calls LERPnet “a vision of the retail community that will help solve a $30 billion a year problem.” “LERPnet should make it easier for the law enforcement community to track organized retail crime groups and their string of criminal conduct,” said Nadeau. “This database will create a stronger partnership between retailers and law enforcement to tackle a growing problem and disrupt criminal organizations.”
The system, programmed by ABC Virtual of West Des Moines, Iowa, uses a secure web interface for data entry, viewing and queries of incidents. Data can be imported from virtually any database and LERPnet already links to case management software programs such as LPSoftware of Palos Hills, Illinois. Additionally, the system allows retailers to set email alerts to be notified of retail crimes in their area, search through reported incidents or flag and monitor the sale of merchandise available on online auction sites.
Availability To date, dozens of well known retailers ranging from coffee shops to major department stores are currently using LERPnet to track criminal activities with dozens more waiting to be trained on the system. This summer, law enforcement personnel can access LERPnet through Law Enforcement Online (www.LEO.gov). More information is available at www.lerpnet.com.
The National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry’s key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees – about one in five American workers – and 2006 sales of $4.7 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf