The Home Depot ORC team is having a breakout year
Mike Combs has over 29 years of experience in security, loss prevention and asset protection leadership roles. He has worked for retailers such as Lazarus/Rich's/Macy's, AutoZone and Home Depot. In his current role he leads the ORC and Central Investigations Teams for the Home Depot.
At Home Depot, the internal investigations team was centralized two years ago, but the ORC investigators still work out in the field, supporting the higher theft markets.
Home Depot has 3 ORC Managers that each cover a division of the country.
Rory Stallard leads the Northern Division that covers 13 team members across 5 major markets.
Jamie Bourne leads the Western Division that covers 11 people and 4 major markets.
Jeremy Greenleaf leads the South with 9 investigators and 4 major markets.
The team's mission is clear: identify and resolve organized retail theft crews that are impacting the shrink and total loss results in their stores and beyond. The success of the ORC team can be attributed to a few critical areas:
Team experience and diversity: "Our growing ORC team has deep experience and diversity. I am amazed at the balance of AP, store operations and Law Enforcement experience we have on the team and this combination makes us highly effective," says Combs.
Partnership: ORC Investigators thrive on building long-term relationships with their store AP peers, Law Enforcement, and industry groups such as states ORCA's, RILA, CLEAR, etc. Combs says, "The intelligence gathered from our store teams help start the process of making an ORC case, and the most successful investigators invest in these crucial relationships."
Senior leader support: "The senior leadership team has invested heavily into our teams so that we can successfully mitigate total loss. From our new VP Scott Glenn, all the way to our CEO, we have support of our mission," Combs says. "This investment is making a big difference."
"Technology is always important when you think of being more productive," Combs says. "I can see a day where drones, facial recognition are used to do complex or risky surveillances and help ORC teams catch the ORC crook even sooner. Today, we spend a lot of wasted time trying to track repeat offenders down or even identify who they are."
Opioid diversion programs could also provide a big improvement to the retail theft problem. Combs mentions that most of their big ORC cases involve drug addicted boosters stealing from the stores and then selling to online marketplaces or to physical stores. He says, "We need new diversion programs to break this cycle."
Overall, the Home Depot ORC team is delivering a record-breaking year in terms of investigations closed, arrests, recovery, and total case value. Through the first 3 quarters of 2018 the ORC team has an increase in total case value of over 127% totaling over $30 million in prosecuted dollars.
Nov. 13, 2018
ORC Leader Gabe Esposito
Building Relationships is Key to Fighting ORC
Gabe Esposito, Director of Corporate Security for Verizon, is responsible for security and asset protection, including retail loss prevention for the company's 1,600+ communications stores and kiosks throughout the United States. He also leads the Verizon's domestic investigations teams for all business units, public safety outreach program, special events security, and provides expertise in the areas of crisis management, risk assessment, business continuity and compliance.
Esposito began his wireless career at Bell Atlantic Mobile. He managed regional business compliance, security and fraud teams in HQ and the Philadelphia and Greenville, SC areas before assuming his current responsibilities at Verizon.
Under his leadership, Verizon established a corporate-wide Loss Prevention program, a business continuity and disaster recovery program for its wireless business unit, a cross-functional crisis management plan, and implemented various training and awareness programs to support the company's commitment to compliance, privacy, employee and retail customers' safety, and security.
Esposito is a co-chair of the National Retail Federation's Organized Retail Crime/Investigators Network and a member of the NRF's Loss Prevention Council. He is a certified business continuity professional and a certified fraud examiner. He is also a member of DRI International, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and the American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS). He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and an MBA.
Prior to joining the private sector, Esposito worked in law enforcement, which in part fuels his passion for developing and maintaining strong relationships with public safety partners. According to Esposito, it is through building and maintaining strong relationships with LP professionals, law enforcement, academia, and industry partners that the fight against organized retail crime can be won.
He adds, while some ORC perpetrators focus on a particular industry, most ORC groups define no boundaries and move from industry to industry perpetrating their fraud and theft. The sophistication of today's ORC groups requires a highly organized and coordinated response from law enforcement and industry partners. It also requires a cross-functional investigative approach by the impacted company including LP, Corporate Security, cyber security, operations and others; a philosophy he has espoused and promoted throughout his career.
Industry and public safety organizations serve as a force multiplier in the fight against ORC and other crimes affecting private industry, and he encourages everyone to join their local ORCAs and to become members of the NRF's ORC/Investigators Network. The ORC/Investigators Network serves as a place through which trends can be more quickly identified and mitigated on a regional basis, and nationally, and is a forum for sharing best practices and solutions to common challenges among LP professionals, law enforcement and academia.
The NRF ORC Effort: Trends - Value - Get Involved
In this roundtable discussion, the two Co-Chairs of the NRF's ORC/Investigators' Network Committee, Jon Shimp (Louis Vuitton) and Gabe Esposito (Verizon), talk about the NRF's ongoing ORC efforts and the challenges and trends they're seeing on a national level. And two of their team members, Robert Ruiz (Louis Vuitton) and Chris Baker (Verizon), share some of the recent developments for ORCA's on a regional level.
Nov. 14, 2018
Hurricane Maria's Impact
On the Loss Prevention Executives & Industry of Puerto Rico
Courage - Sacrifices - Challenges
Retail's First Responders Rebuilding Their Beautiful Island
ORC Leaders Jose Rivas and Axel Diaz
Paving the Way for a Strong LP Community in Puerto Rico
ORC Efforts in Puerto Rico Continue After Hurricane Maria
What effect did Hurricane Maria have on police, loss prevention and organized retail crime efforts in Puerto Rico? The answer is everything. After the devastation of Hurricane Marie, which left nearly 3,000 dead and thousands displaced from their homes, Puerto Rico is beginning to rebuild.
Loss prevention efforts after Hurricane Maria showed an increase in shoplifting along with organized groups that are taking advantage of the low police presence in the malls. Police stations are in most cases working with only two officers and one patrol vehicle. Power was out for a very long time and this alone was a huge factor for shoplifters to take advantage. After talking to some peers, some companies have increased security guards in their buildings, others have increased LP presence. After Hurricane Maria, shoplifters also started to show a more aggressive behavior in order to avoid being taken by LP associates and even police officers making it harder for shoplifters to be prosecuted and removed from the streets.
Vice President, LPOC
The Loss prevention Organization of the Caribbean is also in a rebuilding phase, but as strong as ever with the Leadership of Jose Rivas and Axel Diaz. Jose Rivas has moved into a Regional Operations position and will be leaving his position as President of LPOC. Axel Diaz, the current VP of LPOC is making a career move to Illinois in January. An upcoming LPOC meeting will soon be held and new leadership will continue the take on the challenges of Organized Retail Crime in the Caribbean.
Sometimes things are posted on LinkedIn and few people ever see them. Jose Rivas’ message to the LPOC membership following Hurricane Maria was probably one of those posts you missed:
It’s a pleasure to announce our next LPOC meeting this month of May. Later on we will send you specific date and time. These months after Hurricane Maria have been a learning process and challenge for all of us in the Loss Prevention/Asset Protection area and Security field in general in Puerto Rico. We all suffered of direct or indirect material losses. We have learned to live, make businesses and protect our assets for a long period of time without the basics like water and electricity. Those first months after the hurricane we struggled to get basics such as water, food, gas, communication and so on to our homes. At the same time we were fulfilling our duty to protect our homes, family, workplace and employees. Those were tough days, in the personal and professional aspects, yet we are here up and ready for what’s next. I want to recognize each and every one of you for the sacrifices you all had to make to fulfill your duty at home and work. I wish with all my heart to see all of you at our next meeting and be able to share best practices and experiences that can help us all in our work and personal lives and that way be able to keep working together to raise our beautiful island of Puerto Rico.
Warm wishes to everyone.
Nov. 15, 2018
MetrORCA seeing increase in ORC incidents and membership
By TJ Flynn, President & Co-Founder, MetrORCA
Since the MetrORCA meeting in April 2018 the group has seen a major uptick in usage of the website, alerts, log in and alerts.
● Increase in incidents reported of 24%
● Increase in Membership by 153 new members
● Increase in site overall visits 16,000 vs. 10,000 or 60%
● Increase in daily visits 84 up from 54 or 56%
In October we made some changes to our board:
● Executive Director- Lt. Tarik Sheppard
● President- TJ Flynn
● Vice President- Amanda Hobert
● Vice President- Maj. Ron Hampton
● Membership Director- Sean Huggins
● Treasurer- Rob Ruiz
● Secretary- Dermot Fitzsimons
All board positions will be up for voting each year in September. If interested, please email email@example.com for more information.
In 2019 we look to make some very interesting changes: Monthly/Quarterly Webinars/Training; More Resources on Website (Crime Alerts and Analyst Reports) and legislative efforts.
We represent over 5000 active members and we believe as an organization we can drive change and represent some of the major issues effecting the retail and law enforcement community
We understand that there are major issues effecting B&M Retail, violence events are increasing, resources are being cut thin and law enforcement agencies are over-worked. We look forward to discussing initiatives in 2019 during the D&D live event upcoming Jan. Stay tuned for more!
Nov. 16, 2018
ORCAID Works With Law Enforcement to Bust AT&T Theft Ring
Submitted By Curt Crum
-President, Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR)
-CID Special Services Manager: Forensics and Victim Services, Organized Retail Crime, Boise City PD
The success of this described below and other cases apprehended in the Boise area are due to the focus on partnerships. Without these partnerships we would be just another dot on the map where ORC criminals will target. This case started with extensive research and investigation by AT&T tracking an individual to the Boise area and evolved through the partnerships we have developed over many years of networking, investigations, and conferences.
On Aug 16, members of our local ORCA (ORCAID.org) received an email from a federal law enforcement contact, alerting us to possible fraudulent cell phone purchases in the area from a known traveling ORC suspect. They passed along the initial details and contact information for AT&T. With the suspected transactions being in both Boise and Meridian, ID financial crimes detectives from both agencies were alerted and began contact with AT&T. Working together detectives were able to identify local victims of identity theft and establish probable cause for an arrest.
Knowing the suspect was scheduled to pick up a fraudulently purchased phone at a local store, it was arranged for the store to call the detectives and dispatch once the subject arrived. The suspect entered the local store on Aug 18 and police were quickly alerted to his presence. Meridian Police patrol officers, who we already knowledgeable of the situation, responded and apprehended the suspect after fleeing from the store.
The continuing investigation revealed the suspect's involvement with a larger group of co-conspirators operating from another state. One of these individuals would use compromised victim information, including date of birth, addresses, and social security numbers, to open the fraudulent cell phone accounts online or by phone. Once the accounts were opened, our suspect would be notified via text message or another instant messaging platform. He would then enter a local cell-phone retail locations and add lines to these accounts. He would purchase one or two iPhones, finance these into the fraudulently opened accounts, and leave with the ill-gotten phones. The suspect would repeat this several times over a short period of time before moving on to a new area.
The suspect who is now being prosecuted in federal court was suspected by AT&T to have caused over $400,000.00 in losses across the county.
Nov. 19, 2018
eBay's PROACT Team Partners with Retailers to Fight ORC
Did you know that eBay has a dedicated team to partnering with retailers to combat Organized Retail Crime (ORC)? eBay's PROACT (Partnering with Retailers Offensively Against Crime & Theft) team was founded in 2008 to join the fight with retailers and law enforcement against the growing issues surrounding ORC. We have investigators in North America and Europe who are dedicated to investigating cases of stolen property, and providing support to retailers in their investigations. PROACT conducts several trainings and presentations annually at various conferences, Organized Retail Crime Associations (ORCAS), and online webinars to law enforcement and retail partners to better collaborate and combat ORC.
Outside of investigations, the team itself is directly engaged across several industry organizations through sponsorships, presentations, trainings, and board positions to provide insight and support to the broader community of investigators and law enforcement personnel:
● Long time annual sponsor of the National Retail Federation's Fusion Center at the NRF Protect Conference
● Hold active board positions at the following organizations: Loss Prevention Research Council (LPRC), Coalition of Law Enforcement and Retail (CLEAR), International Association Financial Crimes Investigators (IAFCI), and the Utah Organized Retail Crime Association (UTORCA)
● Longtime Sponsors of the Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) - Includes regular donations of LPC Certification Course sponsorships to industry partners and law enforcement interested in furthering and specializing their education.
To obtain additional information on the PROACT program, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to working with you!
Nov. 20, 2018
Retail LP Has Come A Long Way... But It's Only The Beginning
By Norm Smaligo
- Asset Protection Coordinator, Goodwill Industries of Tulsa
- President, Oklahoma Retail Crime Association (OKRCA)
If you've been in Retail LP for more than 20 years - you probably remember the old times:
Back before actual POS systems replaced simple cash registers, and before any exception reporting (remember looking through miles of detail tape looking for a transaction? For you younger people - it was similar to buying one item at CVS).
A time before CCTV was widely in use - and definitely not in full HD color! (OK, I know some of you are still there. I see the "Google Earth shots of Bigfoot" on the news asking the public to identify your suspects.) Before we figured out how to use the cameras we had to identify inefficiencies that were costing us millions, instead of just thieves that were costing us thousands.
Back when your store operations teams were freaking out over every $5 cash shortage - while refusing to update policies that allowed thousands of dollars in merchandise to walk out the front (and BACK) doors daily.
Before we really developed audits as a tool to drive results, instead of a mission creep checklist that nobody could remember the business justification for?
Now, imagine knowing just how far we have come as an industry - both in abilities and respect - and walking into those same situations TODAY.
That is the situation I found myself in a year ago as I took on the role of creating an Asset Protection department from scratch for a regional non-profit retailer. They knew they needed Asset Protection – but it quickly became obvious that they didn’t quite know ‘why’ yet!
No POS systems on the front end. If they had CCTV it was old, clunky, and pointed in all the wrong places – but that’s OK, because nobody knew how to use it anyway. The registers we have are one step up from an abacus in computing power – and slightly less accurate.
Stores, warehouse, supply chain loss prevention programs that we’ve all come to expect as minimum standards were non-existent.
I spent the first couple of weeks just trying to diagnose the problems I would need to fix. I went undercover in all my stores before I was introduced to anyone, so I could get an unfiltered look at what I was dealing with. Really, I HAD to go undercover. I had no CCTV to work with! My spidey-sense tingled with obvious signs of loss everywhere I looked. Supply chain, warehouse, stores; all wide open (literally and figuratively) for theft.
Some of the more extraordinary things I found:
*Store managers exiting the store, holding a clearly marked bank deposit bag up in the air and announcing to anyone who could hear: “I’m going to the bank!” They were doing twice daily trips to the bank; once during the day for the change order, and once after closing for the deposit – Doubling the risks of a robbery to our staff.
*Half of the stores had no access control systems in place. They told me they’ve had problems with store personnel helping themselves to product out the back door in the past – but they thought it had stopped (spoiler alert: it hasn’t).
*Managers are called to the registers to approve almost everything – yet, cashiers hand key in every sale price. Since there is no barcoding of merchandise – the odds they were ‘sweet-hearting’ merchandise out the door were almost a sure thing. The retail operations folks genuinely thought there was a 1:1 correlation between what was rang up – and what was walking out the door (as we say in the South: “Bless their hearts….”)
Luckily, I came into position at about the same time there was a new person promoted over retail who had also been to the retail mountaintop previously and had seen the promised land. The problem we had was not ‘what’ to fix – it was ‘what to fix FIRST’. We compared notes, fixed bayonets – and charged!
Some of the sillier policies were corrected immediately. Multiple trips to the bank were stopped – as were cash handling practices that had zero business justification and were downright dangerous – and almost made me have a stroke every time I watched them. I’m a big guy. I can’t handle that kind of blood pressure spike!
Our store’s physical security was tightened. Locks, alarms and merchandise protection are being standardized. If we can’t stop you from taking your now-secured merchandise through your preferred choice of door, we are going to at least draw loud attention to you doing it.
Real time two-way communication lines were opened between the stores and AP through the GroupMe app. Real or suspected losses are being reported quickly – and the people reporting them are recognized for their attention. I have also indulged myself and caught a few shoplifters along the way (no ‘scarecrows’ here!). This rippled through the stores in increased awareness and engagement in loss prevention issues – and paid huge dividends for us! The palpable excitement in store personnel in finally knowing that the company took preventing loss seriously, and SEEING IT HAPPEN made it that much easier to draft them to our cause.
CCTV systems were bought and installed. Strangely enough, in every store we installed cameras – we closed a management theft internal within the first 2 weeks. Every.single.time. The same managers who were present when we installed the cameras were being caught by them within days. It’s scary to think how long they’ve been stealing from us if they still couldn’t stop when they knew they were being watched.
POS Systems, and barcoded merchandise systems are being trialed and will be in place shortly – and will be integrated into our CCTV system. We will finally have a better idea of what is actually walking out the front door – so we can more efficiently bring it in through the back.
Operational inefficiencies have been identified, and corrections developed. Tip: If you really want to shatter someone’s illusion about the efficiency of an operational process, have them watch a recording of it at 8x or 16x speed as opposed to watching it live. The bottle-necks, duplications and wasted efforts will jump off the screen at you! Audits are being developed and continually updated to accurately measure our practices and drive our results. Instead of dozens of ways to do one thing – we now have one way to do dozens of things. “Policy” is now winning out over “preference”.
We’re starting to see the payoff of our efforts through increased sales, lowered costs and closed cases across the organization – and it’s being repaid to us through further leeway to effect more change.
I don’t even remember what I really expected coming into this role, but this has been the most maddening, frustrating, wonderful, impactful, FUN exercise of my career. Haven’t we all at one time or another wished that we could wave a magic wand and remake our department to OUR liking? I actually get to do that! I didn’t want to be like some leaders in our industry and impose my preferred playbook on them despite their particular needs, but rather to use my experience to be able to craft a specialized solution that worked for them.
For the ability I have to do that now - I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people I learned from along the way; both the positive leaders and the bad examples! You know who you are...