For the fifth year in a row, Los Angeles has the dubious distinction of being the number one city in the nation when it comes to organized retail theft.

The annual report from the National Retail Federation, which surveyed 177 brands, found that the average “shrink rate” climbed from 1.4% in 2021 to 1.6% in the U.S. last year. “Shrink rate” is the industry term for lost inventory.

While that might not seem like a significant percentage change, the trade group says it represents an additional $18.2 billion in losses.

The San Francisco Bay Area was second for the third straight year. Sacramento was 7th.

“Retail crime, violence and theft continue to impact the retail industry at unprecedented levels,” NRF said in its report. “The effects of these criminal acts are not isolated to large national brands or large metropolitan cities. Daily media reports show that no business is immune, and these issues touch retailers of all segments, sizes and locations across the United States.”

  • Nordstrom mob robbery
  • Store employees cleaning up after a mob of thieves swarmed a Nordstrom in Canoga Park during a destructive robbery on August 12, 2023. (Garret Jiroux)
  • Macy's Mob Theft
  • Riverside mob theft
  • YSL Robbery
  • Security video captured a mob of thieves ransacking a Nordstrom Rack in Riverside and escaping with thousands of dollars worth of designer handbags. (Riverside Police Department)
  • Nearly $200,000 worth of stolen merchandise from Victoria’s Secret and CVS stores were recovered while suspects tried to sell the items in downtown L.A. (Los Angeles Police Department)

Indeed, the issue of “flash mob” style thefts has been part of the daily news cycle in metropolitan Los Angeles for quite some time but is becoming more common.

Thieves are constantly captured on video ransacking retailers, even in crowded shopping malls, with little regard for security or the fact that their actions are being recorded.

In August, a large group of thieves hit the Nordstrom at Westfield Topanga shopping mall in what amounted to a final straw for local authorities.

Within days, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, the Los Angeles Police Department, L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and Glendale Police announced a new regional task force to combat organized retail theft.

Officials say the task force has already netted dozens of arrests of those who participated in the thefts and those who were fencing stolen goods.

Top Cities and Metropolitan Areas Affected by ORC in 2022  (Source: National Retail Federation)

  1. Los Angeles
  2. San Francisco/Oakland
  3. Houston
  4. New York
  5. Seattle
  6. Atlanta
  7. Sacramento
  8. Chicago
  9. Denver
  10. Miami
  11. Albuquerque

“While theft has an undeniable impact on retailer margins and profitability, retailers are highly concerned about the heightened levels of violence and threat of violence associated with theft and crime,” the federation said. “88% percent of retailers report that shoplifters (overall) are somewhat more or much more aggressive and violent compared with one year ago.”