Homeland Security cracking down on organized retail theft with Operation Boiling Point

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced on Monday that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) is launching Operation Boiling Point, aimed at putting an end to organized theft groups. 

HSI says it will target domestic and transnational criminal organizations that profit from organized retail crime. 

"Organized retail crime costs American businesses tens of billions of dollars each year," said Steve K. Francis, acting executive associate director of HSI. "Organized theft groups have become more brazen and violent, causing a destructive effect on the economy, resulting in lost jobs and higher prices. HSI works tirelessly to protect American businesses and consumers and is dedicated to put a stop to organized retail crime."

HSI says prior to the launch of Operation Boiling Point, they were undertaking 59 separate investigations in the fiscal year of 2021 which led to the seizure of $9,287,757 in assets.

Such rampant organized theft has prompted the U.S. government to partner with private industry groups and other law enforcement agencies to try to put an end to such crimes. 

What is organized retail theft?

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organized retail theft rates have skyrocketed in the past year. This type of crime is perpetrated by organized criminal entities who hire out crews to steal large amounts of commodities from all types of retail businesses. 

In Dec. 2021, authorities in Los Angeles more than a dozen arrests in recent smash-and-grab thefts at stores where nearly $340,000 worth of merchandise was stolen, part of a rash of organized retail crime in California.

The incidents were part of a recent run of large-scale thefts in California and across the nation in which groups of individuals shoplift en masse from stores or smash and grab from display cases. Single operators have also been a growing problems for retailers who say the thieves face little consequence.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says these crimes cost retail stores an average of over $700,000 per $1 billion in sales in 2020—up more than 50% in the last five years. 

Fifty-four percent of small business owners also experienced an increase in shoplifting in 2021, according to the agency.