House Subcommittee Looks at Retail Theft Crackdown-October 2008

Crime rings that target pharmacies would face federal penalties under bills now pending in Congress.

Retail and community pharmacists have a stake in legislation pending in both the House and the Senate to combat organized retail crime (ORC). A hearing on 3 ORC bills was held September 22 in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. Frank Muscato, ORC field investigator for Walgreens, was among those testifying before the subcommittee in support of the legislation.

Muscato cited a number of examples of how ORC affects pharmacies. In June, state and federal law enforcement broke up 2 ORC rings in the San Jose/San Francisco Bay area, recovering more than $5.5 million in stolen property—including OTC medications and tooth whitening strips. In Texas, Walgreens and other retailers collaborated with law enforcement on a case that involved a fence who was buying $50,000 to $100,000 worth of stolen baby formula, diabetic test strips, and other OTC medications each day and storing the goods before resale in a warehouse with no climate controls where temperatures routinely exceeded 100ºF.

Testifying in behalf of one of the bills, the “Organized Retail Crime Act of 2008” (HR 6491), its sponsor, Rep Brad Ellsworth (D, IN), noted, “By criminalizing the facilitation of organized retail crime, federal, state, and local law enforcement will be better equipped to crack down on illegal activity that takes place offline—at pawnshops and flea markets—as well as online.”

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is a member of the Coalition Against Organized Retail Crime and has been actively engaged in efforts to address the large-quantity theft and reselling of products, such as infant formula, OTC medicines, health and beauty aids, batteries, and electronics.

The National Community Pharmacists Association (NCPA) is a partner in RxPATROL, a joint effort between the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy community, and law enforcement to track pharmacy crime information; last spring, the group distributed a “Protect Your Pharmacy Now” toolkit with resources to help improve pharmacy security.