Organised crime legislation is to be used to target large-scale shoplifters which business say are costing them millions every year.
Gardaí have announced the start of Operation Táirge to detect and prevent Organised Retail Crime (ORC), a type of crime which involves gangs of thieves operating together to steal large quantities of goods from shops.
These goods are then sold through the black market. This is done through a “fence” who buys the stolen goods and sells them at a physical location. The goods can also be sold online, in an activity known as “e-fencing”.
The gangs also defraud retailers by making false returns and seeking refunds.
The Garda said, as is often the case in organised crime, retail crime can involve an international dimension. It said gardaí are maintaining a close relationship with police forces in Northern Ireland and the UK on the matter.
“ORC is usually co-ordinated and well-organised by people who recruit others to commit theft from retailers,” Garda headquarters said.
The force outlined a number of measures to combat retail theft, including disrupting the major gangs “through the use of organised crime legislation and proceeds of crime legislation.”
It will use an intelligence-led approach to identify gangs engaged in retail crime and to train shop workers to recognise the signs and strengthen their security.
The Garda say it will also target the black markets where stolen goods are sold, along with their leadership.
A campaign to deter people from becoming involved in retail crime by highlighting the potential legal consequences has also been launched.
“We want business owners and staff to feel protected and safe from this kind of criminality, and we will continue to work closely with them in whatever way possible,” said Chief Superintendent Padraic Jones of the Garda National Community Engagement Bureau.
“Most essential is that we utilise our ongoing intelligence gathering to target and take out these groups – they’re no longer operating under any radar and they will be caught.”
He said organised retail crime “poses a significant threat to the viability of Irish retailers.”
According to estimates by the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association, the crime costs retailers more than €1.62 billion a year. Retail crime costs Ireland €339.31 per capita, putting it comfortably at the top of the Global Retail Theft Barometer.
“I know from my engagement with the retail sector across the country, not only about the economic impact of thefts on our retail sector, but also the significant impact this type of crime has on staff retention, recruitment and personal safety,” said Minister for Justice Helen McEntee.
“Key to the success of Operation Táirge will be enhanced engagement with high risk retailers. Garda members will work with these retailers to educate them on Organised Retail Crime behaviours and to help them identify suspicious activity, act on it, make it known to investigating Garda members.”
Minister of State for Business Neale Richmond said the intelligence-led operation “will target the most prolific perpetrators of retail crime.”