Colorado forms public-private partnership to combat ORC

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Editor's note: The original article claimed that the Colorado Organized Retail Crime Alliance was unique because of its statewide approach. In fact, the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance was the first group to tackle ORC with a statewide approach. We regret the error.

DENVER—Colorado has joined the growing ranks of areas where the retail sector and law enforcement have created collaborative organizations to combat organized retail crime.

The Colorado Organized Retail Crime Alliance (CORCA) is a group of retail organizations, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors that grew out of a smaller task force in Denver, according to Robyn Cafasso, chief deputy district attorney of El Paso County's economic crime division. (El Paso County is where Colorado Springs is located.)

The group will organize meetings where loss prevention professionals and law enforcement officers are able to share information about suspected boosters, ORC rings and fencing operations. The group's kickoff will be at a meeting on March 7, Cafasso told Security Director News. "Hopefully we can do a better job of capturing, prosecuting and punishing [those responsible] with a cooperative effort from both sides," she said.

Similar collaborations in other regions have led to increased effectiveness in fighting ORC. Cafasso said CORCA was modeled after a similar organization in Albuquerque. (For more on the Albuquerque Retail Assets Protection Association, read "Public-private model for fighting retail crime spreads across the country.")

Besides the obvious benefits borne from retailers and law enforcement sharing information, CORCA will also raise awareness of ORC's impacts on retailers and help educate law enforcement officers about the crime-fighting tools available to them if they partner with retailers, Cafasso said. "Retail has equipment and tools of detection that could help put together good cases," she said. "We just need law enforcement officers that respond to see the value of the evidence available to them."

Cafasso used an example to illustrate the value of educating law enforcement officers in combating ORC: An officer responds to a shoplifting call where the merchandise is worth $200. At the location, a loss prevention employee tells the officer the suspect is a repeat offender. In one scenario, the law enforcement officer says "the past is the past," and writes a ticket for the one offense, which carries a misdemeanor charge. (In Colorado, merchandise needs to be valued at more than $1,000 for it to be called a felony.) "But a trained law enforcement officer," Cafasso said, "may recognize that maybe we have something more here and looks at the past incidents to see if we can aggregate some of those priors with what we have today and look at felony-level charges that may have significant ramifications."

Though there are similar public-private organizations popping up around the country, CORCA is one of the few groups to take a statewide approach, Joe LaRocca, senior advisor for asset protection at the National Retail Federation, told SDN. Most of the existing public-private partnerships focus on a municipality or metropolitan area, such as the Los Angeles Area Organized Retail Crimes Association or Albuquerque's group, he said. The Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance, formed in November 2010, was the first to take a statewide approach. It has since grown to encompass the entire Pacific Northwest, with 785 members representing 111 cities in 14 states, Scott Stanley, an officer with the Tacoma Police Department and its liaison with WSORCA, told SDN. The only other statewide program LaRocca knows of—and only second hand—is a new group forming in Hawaii. "Colorado has taken a broader approach," LaRocca said.

A larger territory does offer additional logistical challenges in terms of organizing, but LaRocca isn't surprised by Colorado's ambitious approach. "The state retail association has really been on the front lines of fighting organized retail crime for many years."