PHOENIX (3 On Your Side) - Retailers are reporting a spike in organized theft rings targeting businesses, and now there is a new push to crack down on the crimes.
The Home Depot shared videos and photos with 3 On Your Side. They were captured during the execution of a search warrant in California and show a warehouse filled with stolen products, including power tools still in the original packaging.
"The trend is actually getting worse," said Mike Combs, the director of investigations for The Home Depot. "We call it organized retail crime, but it's basically people stealing from retailers then aggregating that and selling it really quickly on online marketplaces."
"What we focus on is the people that come in and take shopping carts full, thousands of dollars worth of product, and many times they're aggressive," Combs added. "We definitely go after the people that are recruiting those individuals and then selling that product online."
The risk of retail crimes running rampant could ultimately cost consumers.
"I think retailers, in general, are concerned that at some point they'll have to increase prices to offset their losses," Combs said.
The problem isn't limited to power tools. Jason Brewer, a spokesperson for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, says organized retail theft rings target all types of businesses and products.
"It's a multi-billion dollar problem," Brewer told 3 On Your Side. "With the anonymity of the internet, it's hard to track who these people are. They hide behind bogus business information and fake screen names, and so it's just a growing threat that's impacting retailers of all sizes."
This session, the Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that would create a task force through the Attorney General's Office to tackle organized retail theft. The bill has passed out of the House, and a spokesperson for Attorney General Mark Brnovich says he supports the legislation.
"The folks that are doing the stealing, they don't operate within specific county lines or even inside of specific state lines, so anything that law enforcement can do, resources that we can provide them to better track the activity, is going to help put a stop to some of it," Brewer said.
Consumers can also fight back against these crimes by avoiding stolen goods.
"Are these things marked way below the typical retail price? That's a warning sign. Is the seller bragging about new in the box, brand new product, or they can get more of that if you need it?" Combs said. "You have to ask yourself as a consumer, why is the product that I can buy at Home Depot out on this site for half the price."