WASHINGTON - The Senate Appropriations Committee last week issued a report recommending not less than $4.1 million in funding to assist the FBI in fighting the professional gangs of shoplifters responsible for what's called Organized Retail Theft.
The funding for ORT, which includes support for a special FBI Task Force and a national database, was originally set for $3 million but the House of Representatives last month recommended reducing that amount to $1 million.
The Coalition Against Organized Retail Theft, which includes the Food Marketing Institute here, other trade associations and retailers, sent a letter in late June urging Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, not to reduce funding for fighting ORT.
The letter pointed out that some of the proceeds from ORT, which accounts for as much as $30 billion annually in stolen merchandise from retail stores, are being channeled to countries and groups that support terrorism. That point was cited in the committee report calling for the higher funding level, said Tim Hammonds, chief executive officer of FMI.
Both the National Retail Federation, Washington, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association, Arlington, Va., have developed national databases to which retailers would be able to contribute information about ORT-related activity in an effort to support law enforcement. Those databases "could contribute information to the federal database," Hammonds said. "But we think this is properly done under the federal government, not private databases."