DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Local retailers are fighting battles against organized theft. 

Police and prosecutors say sophisticated rings of thieves are stealing merchandise and food to sell at cut-rate prices online or at flea markets.

We’ve all seen roadside stands or items at flea markets… and sometimes wonder if the items really are deals, or stolen?  

Kroger’s Gary Huddleston says theft is becoming a bigger problem.  “So the organized retail criminals can come in, steal that product from us, then have an ease of reselling it either at flea markets or electronic mechanisms.”   Huddleston says Kroger is a target for organized theft when it comes to smaller, high-end products… razor blades, over-the-counter medicines, or even baby formula – which can run $14 a can and be scooped off a shelf and into a sack.  “It’s a big problem for retailers,” says Huddleston. “It’s a big problem in the food industry, too.” 

Nationally, the loss is placed at $12 Billion a year.

Dallas Police chief David Brown was blunt at Wednesday’s council briefing.  “Property theft not only effects our crime rate, it effects our economy in big ways… and what we’ve discovered is there’s a big loss to our retailers from this organized retail theft.”   

The Dallas City Council was told such organized rings are as sophisticated as drug cartels and cost Dallas County $20 Million a year in lost sales tax revenue alone… losses honest taxpayers wind up paying, along with the higher costs retailers eventually pass on.  Consumers also lose if businesses with marginal profits have to close their doors.  “We want businesses to succeed,” cautioned Mayor Mike Rawlings.  “And when businesses lose so much money, businesses don’t have a tendency to do business in those parts of town; and then you don’t have the grocery stores that people need, you don’t have the retail establishments.”

The city wants to coordinate its efforts with law enforcement agencies; for its part, the Dallas Police Department says it its creating a Major Property Crimes Unit.  “We’re creating a model,” Chief Brown told councilmembers.  “There will be a unit dedicated to this and it will be their sole job will be pursuing these cases of organized crime in the property crime area.”

Police say honest consumers can make a difference by buying from reputable companies and being suspicious if sales tax isn’t charged on non-food items.  That and the old truism that there’s a reason if a deal seems too good to be true.