SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) — Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Illinois Retail Merchants Association CEO Rob Karr proposed a new plan on Monday to oppose the rising organized retail crime in the state.
According to a study by the Retail Industry Leaders Association, organized retail crime cost Illinois 20,252 jobs and $1,220,306,800 in wages in 2019. An additional survey by RILA found that 86% of stores have had an organized retail criminal threaten an employee, and 76% had an organized retail criminal physically assault an employee.
Professional shoplifters have looted brick and mortar stores in targeted ‘smash-and-grab’ operations, and often partnered with other criminals to resell the stolen goods to unwary customers. Law enforcement experts say organized retail crime rings are also often linked to other criminal enterprises, like weapon and drug smugglers and human traffickers.
“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,” Karr warned.
Raoul and Karr called on the Illinois legislature to allow prosecutors more latitude to pursue organized retail criminals who sometimes commit multiple crimes or partners with other accomplices across city or county lines.
“This type of crime doesn’t restrict itself to a municipality, to a county, it crosses across jurisdiction,” Raoul said. “And so we try to address that by giving my office the authority to prosecute under the statewide Grand Jury Act, [and] by giving states attorneys the opportunity to be able to prosecute, even if some of the activity occurs across boundary.”
“They’re acting in concert,” Karr said, explaining how criminals coordinate to “try to confuse and confound law enforcement and prosecution” when they commit a crime in one place, and pass the goods off to be sold somewhere else.
Raoul also wants the state to designate funding for positions in the Attorney General office and several state’s attorneys’ offices specifically to investigate and prosecute organized retail crime.
The Attorney General’s proposal would also expand surveillance and data collection to monitor people who sell large amounts of expensive merchandise online. US Senator Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL 9th District) have filed similar bills on Capitol Hill, but neither bill has advanced yet.