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Law Enforcement Ramps Up Against Organized Retail Theft As Holiday Shopping Season Starts in Earnest

Published on Friday, November 24, 2023 | 5:36 am

Thousands of local residents are expected to head to malls and stores throughout the Pasadena area for Black Friday and Small Business Saturday amid increased efforts statewide by the California Highway Patrol and citywide by Pasadena police to tackle organized retail theft.

Pasadena police have launched a series of initiatives to combat organized retail theft. The efforts included increased patrols and surveillance, particularly during the holiday season, and a closer collaboration with retailers to monitor suspicious activities and respond quickly to theft incidents. 

The department also conducted targeted operations against organized retail theft, leading to multiple arrests. One high-profile incident in September during an operation targeting organized retail theft and vehicle burglaries in the South Lake shopping district led to the arrest of four alleged Romanian gang members reportedly stealing high-value clothing from Macy’s at 401 S. Lake Avenue.

Pasadena was among the 55 cities and counties that received a portion of the $267 million in new state grants, which were used to establish fully staffed retail theft investigative units, increase arrests, and install advanced surveillance technology, among other things.

As part of the Governor’s Real Public Safety Plan, the CHP is also increasing its law enforcement presence in key retail districts across California. Its Organized Retail Crime Task Force (ORCTF) is increasing enforcement efforts through proactive and confidential law enforcement operations with allied agencies through the holidays, aiming to keep shoppers, merchants, and retail districts safe.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the increased efforts to combat organized retail crime as the annual holiday shopping season began. 

The ORCTF regional team in Southern California is also collaborating with retailers, loss prevention, and local law enforcement agencies and increasing its presence at shopping centers throughout the state during the Nov to Dec 2023 holiday season. 

The task force will execute proactive and confidential operations to strategically target known boosters and fencing operations associated with organized retail crime.

Since Newsom formed the Organized Retail Crime Task Force in 2019, over 2,200 investigations into retail crimes in California have resulted in at least 1,500 arrests statewide, with nearly 420,000 items of stolen retail merchandise valued at more than $33 million recovered.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics, an estimated 182 million people plan to shop from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday in 2023. This figure is 15.7 million more people than the previous year, 2022, and is the highest estimate since the NRF began tracking this data in 2017.

Black Friday continues to be the most popular day to shop, with 72% (130.7 million) planning to shop, up from 69% in 2022. Cyber Monday is the second most popular day, attracting 39% (71.1 million) of those planning to shop over the weekend, on par with 38% last year.

In terms of spending, the NRF forecasts that holiday spending will reach record levels during November and December and will grow between 3% and 4% over 2022 to between $957.3 billion and $966.6 billion. This growth rate is consistent with pre-pandemic levels.

Online shopping is expected to see growth of between 7% and 9% from 2022’s holiday season, and total $273.7 billion to $278.8 billion.

Consumers are expected to spend more this year, but also hunt for deals. According to the NRF’s latest consumer survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, shoppers plan to spend $875 on average on holiday shopping.

Despite the NRF’s expectations for sales growth, major retailers, including Target and Macy’s, have tempered expectations for the holidays. Instead of hyping up the season, companies have adopted a more cautious approach, placing smaller orders of merchandise and emphasizing value in circulars, TV ads, and signs in stores

In terms of specific shopping trends, people in their late 20s to early 40s are expected to account for over 40% of spending between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Furthermore, a record 28% of shoppers plan to buy makeup, beauty, and other personal care items.

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