Thieves have caused nearly $100 billion in retail damage in the United States. A study also shows that pickpockets are often not at work. Professional criminals are getting bolder in many places – especially before Christmas.

Often provocatively with their loot in open hand, criminals pass security guards and slowly leave the shop, as can be seen again and again on various videos in the so-called “social media”. You know: the mostly powerless guards were expressly ordered not to intervene under any circumstances – after all, the thieves could be armed. TikTok is full of clips in which helpless employees have to watch how gang members stride out of the store with bags full of smartphones without paying for it.

The organized crime rate soared 26.5 percent in 2021 compared to the previous year, resulting in a loss of $94.5 billion. The tendency: further increasing – especially in the run-up to Christmas. According to reports from the US Association for Crime Victims, the number of robberies and thefts increases by around 20 percent every December.

“These are not petty thefts. It’s not about people who can’t afford their food for tomorrow,” James Kehoe, chief financial officer of drugstore chain Walgreens, told Insider. “These are thief rings that come in and clear our entire cosmetics shelves completely empty.” The drugstore has recorded over 50 percent more shoplifting in recent years than before 2019.

In addition, organized groups are increasingly focusing on window break-ins, according to Jake Stauch of the security company Verkada. “They specialize in certain categories, such as winter jackets, and then sell their loot online.”

Retail giant Target is expected to lose $600 million. Competitor Walmart also warned: “If that doesn’t change, we’ll have to raise prices and/or close branches,” said managing director Doug McMillon on US broadcaster CNBC. The theft rate is currently higher than ever before.

The increase in crime is also seen as an increasingly serious threat to the existence of other chain stores. In addition, crimes would more often end in brutal violence, reported eight out of ten retailers. A Home Depot employee died earlier this month from his injuries. A shoplifter in North Carolina had thrown the man to the ground.

In order to at least curb theft, in many shops only a limited number of customers are now allowed to enter the shop. Many people also recently queued in front of a branch of the clothing discounter Ross in the center of San Francisco. “We’re used to it. If it’s for security reasons, that’s okay. You just have to be a little more patient,” Genevieve Desuasido told CBS. She and her daughter were waiting to enter the store to shop for Christmas presents. “I read how hard it is for many stores. That’s really bad. The employees in the shops are also afraid.”

The managing director of the American electronics chain Best Buy even described the situation for her employees as “traumatizing”. Corie Barry told Insider: “You can see the pressure they’re under. It is a serious problem that hurts and scares people.”

The rapid growth of digital commerce is also contributing to the rise in organized theft of goods. As in the American Netflix hit “Emily the Criminal”, hordes of so-called “dummy shoppers” buy goods with stolen credit cards that they receive from organized middlemen. Immediately after the theft, the loot is then offered online for resale.

Some of these online sales are also linked to drug and human trafficking organizations, according to a report by the American Retail Association. “That money is then used to buy guns and do the same things as money from drug deals,” New York City police officer Tarik Sheppard told NBC Nightly News.

Nevertheless, there is a glimmer of hope for the new year: According to a new draft law, organized thieves could soon find it more difficult to do their job. Because in the future online third-party sellers will have to prove their identity and may no longer remain anonymous as before. The House of Representatives has already approved a corresponding draft. Now the Senate should also agree before the end of the year.

With WISO property tax there is now also a practical tool for the property tax return, which millions of Germans will also have to submit this year. Via FOCUS online you can get the tax software at an exclusive special price of only 26.99 euros.