The Migration Of Thieves

Illicit Markets Mirror Legitimate Markets

What is popular in stores today is also popular with thieves today. Like any other businesses, underground markets depend on the law of Supply & Demand. Professional thieves will only steal merchandise they can quickly sell, and only things in high demand sell quickly. Equally similar to legitimate businesses, professional thieves tend to specialize in certain merchandise. Some only steal from Home Improvement stores because they have an outlet, or fence, who is ready and willing to take tools and equipment off their hands quickly. Some professional thieves specialize in the theft of jewelry, electronics, or health & beauty products for the same reasons. Their contacts and distribution channels are mostly equipped to only handle those specific commodities. Because these vast fencing networks can move large amounts of stolen merchandise quickly, professional thieves do not hesitate to steal cartloads of these commodities in a single incident. The more they can steal each time, the less risk of getting caught. That may seem counterintuitive, but most professional thieves would rather steal thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise by shoplifting once per day than stealing that same amount over the course of several store visits per day. This is why shopping cart-based retailers are a favorite target of professional thieves. It is also important to note that professional fencing networks are not necessarily needed anymore. With the development of faceless apps and online commerce sites, it is not uncommon for illicit transactions to take place in the vary parking lots of the victim retailers.


So, what happens when professional thieves specializing in the theft of toys, for example, find themselves with limited access to their chosen commodity? This is precisely what happened on September 18, 2017, when Toys R Us filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Almost instantly, Toys R Us had to clearance-out their inventory and shutter their stores. For professional thieves specializing in the theft of toys, a decision had to be made. They either had to find a job or find a new commodity to steal.

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