FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 7, 2022
Illinois Retail Merchants Association Partners with Attorney General Kwame Raoul to Introduce Comprehensive Proposal to Fight Organized Retail Crime, Stop Illicit Trade and Protect Communities
CHICAGO – 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.
About the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA)
One of the largest state retail organizations in the United States, IRMA serves as the voice of retailing and the business community in state government. Founded in 1957, IRMA represents more than 23,000 stores of all sizes and merchandise lines. From the nation’s largest retailers to independent businesses in every corner of the state, merchants count on IRMA to fight for the best possible environment in which to do business in Illinois.
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