WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Shoplifting has long been a concern of businesses but lately, that concern is at an all-time high. Retailers are losing thousands and thousands of dollars in inventory to theft.

If you thought smash and grab crimes like this are increasing, you’re not wrong. This jewelry store is just one of the many businesses targeted by thieves in recent months.

“They go in at certain times and they do it very quickly. I don’t know how they or why they do it but if they can sell something for so much more on the market, you know they’re going to do it,” said Blake Sult.

The US Chamber of Commerce claims much of the large-scale theft and looting stems from organized crime.

“We have reported actually from Pennsylvania of organized crime gangs who’ve come in, who’ve recruited addicts, drug addicts, and other vulnerable individuals to go steal listed items that they know they can sell,” explained Neil Bradley, Executive VP/Chief Policy Officer, US Chamber of Commerce.

Just how big a problem is shoplifting in Pennsylvania?

“We’ve seen estimates that retailers are losing close to a billion dollars in goods across the state because of organized retail theft,” stated Bradley.

Large retailers aren’t the only ones being targeted. 54% of small business owners surveyed reported an increase in shoplifting within the past year.

What’s made the retail theft crisis even worse? Many small businesses which are impacted were already struggling because of the pandemic.

Bradley says three key steps need to be taken to stop members of organized theft rings. First, require the identification of e-commerce retailers.

“So that people can no longer anonymously sell large quantities of goods,” Bradley said.

Secondly, tougher laws and penalties.

“If they’re coming in as part of a group. That’s organized crime and we should treat it as such,” stated Bradley.

Finally, Bradley wants the law community to take action.

“We need prosecutors to step up and do their jobs, to prosecute these individuals and to hold them accountable,” explained Bradley.

Bradley says retail theft is far from a victimless crime. He says besides lost inventory, it’s causing some merchants to close their stores, costing employees their jobs and hurting the community tax base.