Organized retail crime affects almost all retail merchants, including supermarkets, and more than two-thirds of all retailers surveyed have seen an increase in the past year, according to the 15th annual ORC study released by the National Retail Federation.

“Organized retail crime continues to present a serious challenge to the retail industry,” NRF vice president of loss prevention Bob Moraca said. “These criminal gangs are sophisticated, but so are retail loss prevention teams. Retailers are committing more resources and constantly evolving their tactics to fight this ongoing challenge.”

To help independent supermarkets navigate the many challenges arising in the industry, the National Grocers Association (NGA) invites retail members to join one of its share groups, such as loss prevention — including directors and vice presidents with responsibility for reducing shrink, shoplifting, vendor theft and employee theft.

Here’s how the NGA share group works: store operators from NGA member companies that are non-competing meet in person to problem-solve, openly swap ideas, and share best practices. They’re entirely participant-driven and professionally facilitated. In other words, each share group determines their own meeting agendas and frequency.

The NRF report found that 97% of retailers had been victimized by ORC in the past year and that 68% had seen an increase in ORC activity. Losses averaged $703,320 per $1 billion in sales, marking the fourth year in a row that the figure topped the $700,000 mark.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of retailers said ORC is a higher priority for their companies than five years ago, while 56% were allocating additional technology resources to the issue and 44% were increasing their loss prevention budgets.

Among steps taken to fight ORC, 37% were changing point-of-sale policies, 27% with employee screening and 24% with the way they handle trespassing.

While ORC often involves thefts from stores, 73% of those surveyed had been victims of cargo theft. Theft of cargo occurred most often en route from distribution centers to stores (59%), at distribution centers (33%) and en route between stores (30%).

Stolen merchandise is sometimes returned for store credit, usually in the form of gift cards. Those cards can then be sold for cash, and 51% of retailers had found them for sale on websites while 17% found them in pawnshops.

A number of states have increased the threshold of what constitutes a felony in recent years, allowing criminals to steal more before being subject to the stronger penalties that come with a felony. Among retailers surveyed, 51% had seen an increase in average ORC case values in states where that has happened.

The top five cities for ORC in the past year in order were Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Chicago and Miami, with a number of ties rounding out the top 10.