Dismantling organized retail crime networks

Scott Seaman

Organized retail theft (ORT) is a serious challenge for California businesses and law enforcement alike, costing retailers and small businesses billions of dollars a year. Rampant theft poses real risks to residents and it’s not something businesses in our communities should suffer from.

While Attorney General Bonta and the California Highway Patrol are overseeing regional task forces to combat ORT, California is also accepting applications through July 7, 2023, for its Organized Retail Theft Prevention Grant Program and Organized Retail Theft Vertical Prosecution Grant Program. These grants, which together total over $250 million in available funding for police departments, sheriffs’ offices, and public safety agencies, give agencies the opportunity to purchase tools to further disrupt ORT.

ORT poses a uniquely complex set of challenges to municipal public safety agencies. Crimes often involve networks of perpetrators employing a wide variety of tactics and strategies. This complexity calls for interagency coordination and the use of powerful, sophisticated tools to uncover critical leads. Peregrine provides a platform that can empower departments to effectively combat ORT.

Dismantling the roots of criminal networks

Unlike crimes involving a single individual, organized retail thefts are conducted by sophisticated groups. While the makeup of the people physically engaging in the thefts change, the leadership largely stays the same. Because the individuals committing the crimes change, law enforcement considers a broader set of factors in order to effectively stop ORT.

These common factors serve as crucial leads. For example, while the thefts might occur in different places, these groups might use the same vehicles or cell phones. If law enforcement can effectively identify the connections, police can more effectively dismantle an organized retail theft group’s entire operation.

Peregrine can empower departments to better evaluate any single instance of retail theft while continuously examining higher-level patterns and trends. The platform simplifies the process for detectives seeking answers to questions like "Do certain large-scale thefts target similar types of retail items?", "Has a specific cell phone been present at multiple crime scenes?", or "Have particular vehicles or license plates been identified at the scenes?".

The power of Peregrine is its ability to surface answers to questions like the ones above. Department personnel can use those answers to make timely decisions while ensuring robust governance, security, and compliance around data usage.

From disparate data to precise insights

Relevant information about ORT is extremely fragmented. Potential leads could result from fingerprints, cell phone data, NIBIN hits if firearms are involved, informant statements, traffic citations, automated license plate recognition (ALPR) scans, fixed video footage from retailers’ surveillance cameras, or even handwritten reports.

Beyond data in departments’ own systems, newly formed partnerships between retailers and law enforcement will provide a small set of retailers’ information to public safety agencies. While retailers’ data could result in new leads, it also adds to the overall complexity of solving ORT-related crime.

This degree of fragmentation, amplified due to ORT's multiple and often changing actors, makes identifying leads a manual and onerous process: Log into one database. Look for information. Do that again for another database. And another. And another. Then manually find connections between siloed information to try to cultivate a lead. Then investigators and analysts must remember and cogently synthesize the connections they’ve identified to try to solve the case.

Peregrine has streamlined this process. By dynamically integrating, securing, modeling, and transforming data of any kind, the platform automatically connects information together, so the process described above is near instantaneous and seamless. Peregrine can link a partial license plate to an ALPR scan in real time, or link unstructured data in a PDF to a case file from a record management system (RMS). Any information that’s integrated into Peregrine is transformed by making connections to other relevant data clear – giving patrol officers, investigators, and analysts the context they need to move cases forward efficiently and with precision, avoiding previous manual and time intensive processes.

The entire criminal justice system – together

Criminal networks conducting large scale retail theft aren't restricted by jurisdictions. Criminal networks exploit opportunities by targeting retailers through coordinated operations before moving on to other jurisdictions.

To effectively dismantle these organizations, agencies within regional criminal justice ecosystems must work together. Prosecutors and investigators focusing on retail theft who rely solely on data from their own department or jurisdiction could overlook vital information. Key insights that could lead to a breakthrough during an investigation or help a district attorney build a robust case against ORT suspects might live with neighboring departments.

Among its many powerful capabilities, Peregrine can seamlessly connect information from multiple federal and municipal organizations into one common operating picture. The platform centralizes data across the criminal justice ecosystem – including police, sheriffs, district attorneys and courts – powering unified search and analysis. Police and district attorneys can use Peregrine to collaborate and build the best possible cases to hold ORT groups accountable.

As an example, imagine cameras outside a retail store pick up a partial plate of a vehicle used by perpetrators. Peregrine can connect that partial plate to ALPR hits to identify where the vehicle went, a potential person of interest known to the department who is linked to the vehicle and their known associates, and case files from another city’s police department mentioning the license plate in another theft. Connecting disparate data empowers investigators to conduct their investigations thoroughly, quickly, and with confidence.

Because ORT groups move from one jurisdiction to another quickly, ensuring departments can share information quickly and securely with partner agencies is vital to stopping these crimes.

Our robust privacy controls ensure that any shared data is done so securely and in a way that is CJIS-compliant – whether it’s automatically linking data from one agency to another or empowering agencies to share relevant information with their partners. Data in Peregrine’s platform maintains privacy controls across each agency and each data artifact to ensure that any information is only shared with those who should have access to it.

The next step for your organized retail theft strategy

Our team is ready to help your department fundamentally disrupt organized retail theft in your city. Peregrine has also been used to collate the data agencies need to apply for grants and subsequent grant reporting requirements they use to keep their communities safe.

If you have more questions about how Peregrine works or need support applying to California’s Organized Retail Theft Prevention Grant Program, reach out today

About Scott Seaman

Scott Seaman, Principal of Scott Seaman Consulting, serves as an advisor to Peregrine. He also provides law enforcement executive coaching to chiefs of police and command personnel. He has worked in law enforcement for 39 years including 27 years at the San Jose Police Department and as chief of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno police department for 12 years. He served as President of the California Police Chiefs Association in 2012 as well as 8 total years on the board of directors of CPCA. He serves as an executive fellow with the National Policing Institute in Washington, DC. His consulting practice also includes over 20 years of expert witness consulting to police agencies on police practices and use of force issues.

Better, faster
in 90 days

Better, faster
in 90 days