Illinois Attorney General wants higher penalties for organized retail crime

Broken windowpane vandal
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The Illinois Attorney General and retail merchants across Illinois are calling for legislation to specifically clamp down on organized retail crime operations.

Perhaps you’ve seen news video in the last year of groups going into a high-end stores, grabbing armloads of merchandise, and running out. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said those are part of organized crime operations designed to make money by reselling items. He said sometimes that money supports drug trafficking and human trafficking.

Raoul would like the Illinois General Assembly to make a difference in the law between someone who, for instance, steals a loaf of bread for their family and groups of people hauling away thousands of dollars in clothing or electronics.

"We cannot mistake regarding these crimes as isolated acts of retail theft of the sorts committed by rag-tag, low-level offenders if they’re actually part of a larger organized crime scheme," he said.

Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association called organized retail crime "insidious."

"While organized retail crime has been an issue for many years, over the last five years, it has grown over 60 percent and we have all borne witness as Illinois has become a national epicenter," he said.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association said there’s a ripple effect when organized retail crime rings operate. Stores have to decide whether to remain in an area, developers have an added decision about potential crime when thinking about locating somewhere, and customers have to decide whether it’s worth it for them to possibly get caught in the middle of such a theft. Plus, it hurts governments who rely on sales tax.

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