Nearly all US retailers have been victims of organised crime in the past year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Although the numbers have fallen slightly on last year – 93.5% of retailers said they had been victims, compared to 96% in 2012’s survey – more than 80% of respondents said they thought organised retail crime in the US had increased over the last three years.

Nearly one in five – 18.3% – of apprehensions lead to violence, up from 15.2% last year and 13% the year before, leading the NRF to call for a change to the Federal Criminal Code to define organised retail crime properly as a federal crime with appropriate sentencing guidelines.

“We are extremely concerned by the organised patterns that are taking place in the retail industry right now as these crime gangs continue to find ways to manoeuvre the system,” said NRF vice president of loss prevention Rich Mellor.

“Though retailers continue to make great strides in their fight against organised retail crime, savvy, unconscionable criminals are selling stolen merchandise for a profit that doesn’t belong to them.”

Asking the question for the first time, the survey found 77.8% of retailers had experienced a thief returning a stolen item without a receipt to gain store credit through a gift card, then selling the card on to kiosks, pawn shops and check cashing stores.