Retail industry leaders told FOX Business that online marketplaces have created a black market business model for thieves, driving the surge in smash- and- grab robberies that have been on the rise throughout the United States in recent months and years.
The Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail, the head of the Coalition, estimates that retail theft is responsible for $68 billion in annual losses, a number that has gone up during the coronaviruses epidemic.
COVID was the tipping point, according to Dugan, who told FOX Business that it was a growing problem.
Almost everyone is shopping online during the COVID. More than half of retailers nationwide, 57%, said there has been more organized retail crime since the outbreak began, according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation last year.
Jason Brewer, executive vice president at Retail Industry Leaders Association, said the forces that led to the increase in thefts were put in place about a decade ago.
Brewer told FOX Business that the rise in online marketplaces and the ease of anonymously selling stolen products is the main difference between today and 10 years ago.
It has put the problem of stolen goods on steroids and it has created a business model for some criminals to steal and resell stolen products quickly and anonymously. The surge in retail theft has led to law enforcement agencies to convene task forces and operations targeting the criminals responsible.
The arrests and sentencing of five people who stole more than $8 million of merchandise from retailers throughout California were announced last month by California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The coordinated criminal activity we have seen in retail stores and online through the resale of stolen goods isn't shoplifting or petty crime, it's organized crime, and it's going to take an organized strategy to put a stop to it, Bonta said last month.
Retail industry leaders said that the problem won't go away until online marketplaces tighten up security and transparency around peer-to- peer transactions.
Brewer said there was no limit to how much can be sold today. Platforms like Facebook are doing very little to identify who these individuals are. The InFORM Act on Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers has been introduced in both chambers of Congress with bipartisan co-sponsors.
The bill would require online platforms to verify the identities of high-volume third-party sellers and require sellers to give contact information upfront.
Facebook did not make a statement on the INFORM ACT, but told FOX Business that it prohibits stolen goods from being sold on the Facebook Marketplace.
Amazon supported the House version of the bill, which was introduced in October, and scaled back some transparency requirements in the Senate version.
We strongly support legislation to stop bad actors from harming consumers, including increasing penalties against online criminals and providing more resources for law enforcement, as well as increasing penalties against online criminals, according to Amazon.
Last month, 20 CEOs from several sectors sent a letter to Congressional leaders in urging them to pass the INFORM Act, which wrote that criminal networks and unscrupulous businesses have exploited a system that protects their anonymity.