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IRMA, AG Raoul to file bill to tackle organized retail theft

Monday, Feb 7, 2022 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Greg Hinz

Smash-and-grab organized retail theft has clobbered stores throughout the Chicago area—and new draft legislation designed to crack down on it, to be unveiled later today, appears to have a pretty good head of steam behind it.

At a mid-morning press conference, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and Attorney General Kwame Raoul are scheduled to talk about a pending package that would create a new criminal offense—organized retail crime—and make it much easier for prosecutors to pursue cases of so-called flash mob theft.

The agreement in principle has not yet been filed as an actual bill, but according to IRMA chief Rob Karr has received “very positive feedback” from legislative leaders in private briefings in recent days. “I’m optimistic about getting their support,” Karr told me in a phone call.

* Press release…

With organized retail crime plaguing neighborhoods across Chicago and communities throughout the state, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association in partnership with Attorney General Kwame Raoul today announced a sweeping proposal to combat these criminal rings, prevent illicit trade and provide retailers additional tools to protect the safety of employees and customers.

The proposal represents one of the most comprehensive efforts in the nation to combat organized retail crime by addressing the problem from multiple angles. This includes providing prosecutors with more tools to hold criminals accountable, dedicating state funds to investigate and prosecute the criminal rings carrying out these brazen thefts, requiring more oversight of third-party marketplaces where stolen goods are sold, stronger rights for victims of organized retail crime and the creation of statewide intelligence gathering and sharing platform to allow retailers and law enforcement agencies to better coordinate.

“The impact of organized retail crime reaches far and wide, threatening the safety of employees and customers and putting our communities at risk of further crime including illegal firearm purchases, human trafficking and even terrorism,” said Rob Karr, president & CEO, IRMA. “We are proud to stand with Attorney General Raoul to propose real changes that will aid retailers, protect our employees and consumers and provide for safer communities across the state. We look forward to working with the leaders and legislators in the House and Senate to implement these important changes.”

The proposal calls for the creation of the Organized Retail Crime Act, providing the emphasis and focus required to combat this dangerous form of retail theft, which is usually performed by criminal groups with the goal of reselling stolen items to fund illicit activities. Those participating in smash and grab robberies as well as the looting of supply chain vehicles could be prosecuted for organized retail crime. Prosecutors would be given wider discretion to bring charges regardless of where the crime takes place. For instance, if the conspiracy, theft, and selling all occurred in different jurisdictions, each jurisdiction would have the ability to prosecute the whole crime.

In addition, those participating in organized retail crime could be prosecuted by the Attorney General via the Statewide Grand Jury. This would give law enforcement officials another avenue by which to hold leaders of criminal rings accountable. Further, victims of organized retail crime must be given at least seven days’ notice of all court proceedings, which must be sent to the establishment where the crime occurred as well as any persons the victims designate.

To support these efforts, the proposal calls for earmarking state funds on an annual basis to create new positions in the Attorney General’s office and various State’s Attorneys offices across the state solely dedicated to investigating and prosecuting retail theft and illicit trade. To qualify for funding, officials must agree to prosecute offenders and seek state-imposed penalties, as well as meet annual reporting requirements that includes but is not limited to information about arrest and conviction rates, sentencing information and value of goods recovered.

“We cannot make the mistake of looking at organized retail crimes as being isolated events if we are to fully address the problem,” said Attorney General Kwame Raoul. “I established an Organized Retail Crime Task Force because collaborations between law enforcement, the retail industry and government are critical to interrupting the criminal enterprise behind these crimes, which are frequently connected to drug and human trafficking. I appreciate the partnership of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association as we continue working to protect communities from organized retail crime and the criminal organizations behind it.”

The proposal builds on the work of the Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which is designed to investigate these crimes and trace them to their source. In December, the task force and the Chicago Police Department Force recovered stolen good worth millions of dollars during a sting operation. IRMA also works with the United to Safeguard American from Illicit Trade (USA-IT) Coalition, which aims to address organized retail crime at the national level.

Increasingly, goods stolen during the execution of organized retail crime are often sold on third party electronic marketplaces. The proposal would require these online marketplaces to verify the identity of high-volume sellers using bank account numbers, taxpayer IDs or other information. Those sellers would be required to provide valid contact information, and marketplaces would be required to suspend the activity of third-party sellers for non-compliance. This is a vital public safety component as these sales are used to fund illegal activity including drug trade, weapons smuggling, human trafficking and terrorism. The proposal is identical to the agreed proposal being sponsored in Washington, D.C. by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky.

Organized retail crime has increased 60 percent in the last five years and is carried out by organized criminal rings that steal products and resell them, often online. A recent study by the Retail Industry Leaders Association found that as much as $68.9 billion in products were stolen from retailers nationwide in 2019, with retail crime resulting in $125.7 billion in lost economic activity and 658,375 fewer jobs. It’s estimated that retail theft costs federal and state governments nearly $15 billion in personal and business tax revenues, not including sales tax losses. These are conservative estimates as some jurisdictions discourage organized retail theft complaints and prosecutions.

The online sales thing seems more like a federal issue, but what do you think of it all?

…Adding… Steve Kim campaign…

Attorney General Candidate Steve Kim released the following statement on today’s news.

“JB Pritzker and Kwame Raoul’s anti-law enforcement bill provided an out for criminals who take part in flash mob theft, and now they are trying to cover up for themselves. Crime is out of control in Chicago and across the state. Small and family owned businesses are faced with the fear that they may be the next target, and now those offenders could be back on the street instead of serving time for impacting the livelihoods of business owners and community residents. This one party rule has led to rising crime, economic downturn, and needs to change.”

       

24 Comments
  1. - Big Mike - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:30 am:

    Will juveniles involved in this crime be treated as adults? Why treat them differently?


  2. - Arsenal - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:33 am:

    Creating a new crime/cause of action is always interesting to me. I’m not familiar enough with existing retail theft laws to know if they’re adequate or if this is really needed, but I’ll be paying attention to this story.

    On a political note: it’s just so, so hard to beat an incumbent.


  3. - Rich Miller - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:33 am:

    ===Why treat them differently? ===

    Seriously?


  4. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:35 am:

    I think going after the sellers makes a lot of sense.

    As with all crimes there are two issues. Enforcement and prosecution. If CPD clearance rates are any indication, the enforcement could use some work. I’m skeptical that it can be done better from the distance of the AG’s office, but maybe I’ll be surprised.

    People accurately point out that Kim Foxx is more lenient than they might prefer on juveniles and with regard to the dollar amount for a felony (though I’d note that her amount is in line with several other states).

    That is a policy decision that the State’s Attorney can make. And this is a Sate’s Attorney who was pretty clear about her policy positions when she was reelected in 2018. People agreed with her that locking up juveniles and/or slapping a felony charge on those who steal $301 worth of items does not improve society. Losses to businesses be damned.

    I tend to agree with her.


  5. - Dankakee - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:35 am:

    Brr
    Murder and carjacking have under a 30% arrest rate, but a 90%+ conviction rate. They’re being prosecuted, they’re not being arrested.


  6. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:37 am:

    Also as with all crime posts on this website it’s worth getting in the comments that there is no proof that sentence enhancements deter crime. It’s bee studies profusesly. Increased police presence and higher arrest rates do work, however.


  7. - JoanP - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:43 am:

    It would have been nice if the press release had provided the proposed legislation’s definition of “organized retail theft”.

    = Kim Foxx is more lenient than they might prefer . . . with regard to the dollar amount for a felony =

    The legislature sets that amount, not State’s Attorneys.


  8. - Amalia - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:52 am:

    the additional resources for the investigation of sales after theft, much needed. there’s been work on this before under state laws, including task forces for theft from railroad yards, but clearly more assistance in light of the smash thieves is better. recent arrests over organized theft from warehouses is another area where law enforcement can assist businesses. but, juveniles in this area as well as others, more enforcement needed. one question is how many encounters with law enforcement does a juvenile have before they actually get a case before a judge. back in the day police would often let kids go but keep track of what the kid was up to, often leading to multiple encounters before consequences were leveled. and, of course, what will the Foxx say?


  9. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 9:55 am:

    @JoanP

    The legislature sets the minimum at $500. The SA has discretion.

    SA’s in this country have always had a great deal of lattitude. It’s just that no one has batted an eye until reform-minded prosecutors came into office.

    Incidentally that state minimum in Wisconsin is $2,500.


  10. - JoanP - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 10:57 am:

    @JJJJJJJJ (I hope I got the right number) -

    The SA has discretion in *charging*, not in setting the $ amount for felonies.


  11. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 11:25 am:

    @JoanP

    They have discretion in *charging* a felony. “felony” is a charge. So if they increase their internal policy on the $ amount, they are using their charging discretion.

    https://digitaledition.chicagotribune.com/tribune/article_popover.aspx?guid=9ac9f3b1-0978-4ba4-a81b-bca34e82a2fa


  12. - Lt Guv - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 11:51 am:

    I hope it helps.


  13. - JoanP - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 12:21 pm:

    @JJJJJJJJJJ -

    I think we’re just arguing semantics here. I get what you mean.


  14. - Amalia - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 12:28 pm:

    at least the Manhattan DA walked back the most egregious parts of his memo on what not to prosecute. something for other DAs and SAs to note and do the same.


  15. - Payback - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 1:10 pm:

    “…those participating in organized retail crime could be prosecuted by the Attorney General via the Statewide Grand Jury.” A statewide grand jury proposed by Kwame Raoul? Raoul’s staffers (Raoul didn’t attend the meeting) told Reps Grant Wehrli and Patrick Windhorst that the AG couldn’t do anything about crimes committed by public officials, for instance cops, because their lawyerly interpretation of the Illinois Attorney General act precluded such prosecutions. According to them, it’s all up to the county state’s attorneys.

    I guess that where there’s a will (and a headline) there’s a way, huh Kwame?


  16. - Downstate - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 1:20 pm:

    Most major cities are living in George Soro’s vision for what (if anything) constitutes criminal behavior.


  17. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 1:29 pm:

    ===George Soro’s vision===

    How you typed that without hyperventilating is worth congratulations. What we need to help this is FoxNews talking points. (Sigh)

    ===JB Pritzker and Kwame Raoul’s anti-law enforcement bill provided an out for criminals who take part in flash mob theft, and now they are trying to cover up for themselves. Crime is out of control in Chicago and across the state.===

    So… what… Kim doesn’t want legislation to these crimes to help try to curb these things?

    It’s like pointing at spilled milk and first say spilled milk is out of control, then slamming the using of a towel to help after?

    There’s better ways to go about making hay here, that’s not one of them.


  18. - Da big bad wolf - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 2:12 pm:

    === requiring more oversight of third-party marketplaces where stolen goods are sold===

    That’s all well and good but we need a law for this at the federal level because the goods can be taken out of state and/or sold online. Jan Schakowsky’s bill is a good start

    Just last week a warehouse worker and his wife stole massive amounts of perfume from his warehouse. Either they stink or they’re selling it to another store.

    https://schakowsky.house.gov/media/press-releases/schakowsky-introduces-bill-protect-consumers-making-online-purchases


  19. - JJJJJJJJJJ - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 3:02 pm:

    I’d love to know how Kim thinks this is related to the criminal justice reform bill.


  20. - Chicagonk - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 4:02 pm:

    Facebook was caught flat footed by BIPA and it cost them $400 million. If they are going to move on regulations for online resellers, they better move quick because companies like Amazon, EBay, and Poshmark won’t let themselves get Facebooked.


  21. - Downstate - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 4:07 pm:

    Supporters of this bill will have to contend with the opposition of people like Ariel Atkins.


  22. - JoanP - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 4:41 pm:

    = we need a law for this at the federal level =

    There are federal laws against interstate transportation of stolen goods. https://codes.findlaw.com/us/title-18-crimes-and-criminal-procedure/18-usc-sect-2314.html


  23. - Da big bad wolf - Monday, Feb 7, 22 @ 6:06 pm:

    === Supporters of this bill will have to contend with the opposition of people like Ariel Atkins.===

    People who have little power. Ok, so?


  24. - Downstate - Tuesday, Feb 8, 22 @ 7:56 am:

    “People who have little power.”

    Yikes. Leaders of that organization won’t appreciate being dismissed so easily.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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