Organized retail crime (ORC) continues to grow, with 83 percent of merchants reporting an increase in the past year, according to the National Retail Foundation’s 12th annual ORC study. All survey respondents reported being an ORC victim in the past year, and the average loss was $700,259 per $1 billion in sales, a significant increase from $453,940 last year.

As the problem grows, 71 percent of loss prevention executives surveyed said they believe their top management understands the severity and complexity of the crimes, up from 63 percent last year.

Retail crime gangs often use storefronts, pawn shops, flea markets and kiosks to sell stolen goods, and 63 percent of those surveyed reported recovering merchandise from a physical location. However, many criminals are turning to the anonymity of the Internet; 58 percent of retailers said they had identified stolen merchandise from an e-fencing operation.

Four states – New Mexico, Oregon, New York and Vermont – have enacted ORC laws in the past year, bringing the nationwide total to 34, but the survey found that 56 percent of retailers in states with ORC laws said they had seen no increase in support from law enforcement.

Cargo theft is also on the rise. Forty-four percent of those surveyed cited it as a problem for their retail enterprise, up from 38 percent last year. The most common place for cargo theft to occur is when merchandise is en route from the manufacturer to a retailer’s warehouse or from the warehouse to a store, followed by on-site theft from the warehouse.