March 24, 2022
ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL MEETS WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT AND RETAILERS TO DISCUSS ORGANIZED RETAIL CRIME
Raoul’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force Works with Federal, State And Local Law Enforcement to Investigate Organized Retail Crimes Statewide
Springfield — Attorney General Kwame Raoul convened a meeting with representatives of law enforcement agencies and the retail industry to discuss collaborations to strengthen investigations and prosecutions of individuals and enterprises involved in organized retail crime.
Attorney General Raoul visited Springfield, Illinois to host a discussion between the Attorney General’s chief of investigations and prosecutors from the office, U.S. Attorney for the Central District of Illinois Gregory Harris, Springfield Police Chief Ken Scarlette, and the retail industry. The meeting is part of his Organized Retail Crime Task Force’s work to enhance cooperation among retailers, online marketplaces, law enforcement agencies and state’s attorneys.
“The effects of organized retail crime are not limited to any one region of our state, particularly when the sales of stolen merchandise often fund additional criminal activity – such as the drug trade and human trafficking,” Raoul said. “I appreciate U.S. Attorney Harris, Chief Scarlette and our partners from law enforcement and retail taking time to discuss collaborations aimed at addressing these crimes. Organized retail crime is a complex issue that will require a multifaceted solution, such as providing law enforcement with tools that will improve investigations and increase successful prosecutions.”
The Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force is comprised of career investigators and prosecutors from the Attorney General’s Criminal Enforcement Division working in concert with the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Illinois State Police, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, the Illinois Association of State’s Attorneys, and local law enforcement agencies throughout Illinois. The purpose of the Springfield meeting was to identify opportunities for the Attorney General’s office and the task force to partner with Springfield-area law enforcement agencies in order to address organized retail crime in the region. In addition, prosecutors from the Attorney General’s office provided updates related to the task force’s ongoing work to identify and dismantle criminal enterprises behind organized retail crime. The meeting was not open to the public.
Organized retail crime and retail fraud can be mistaken for isolated incidents committed by low-level offenders; however, organized crime rings are often behind these incidents. Crime rings connected to the drug trade, human trafficking and other forms of crime target big box stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, auto dealerships and other retailers to carry out sophisticated theft operations and operate across county and state borders. Rings coordinate the theft of large amounts of merchandise – using boosters and mules including people who are homeless, indigent or addicted to drugs – that are resold below market value using online marketplaces. The danger of organized crime goes beyond lost revenue. In discussions with the Attorney General’s office, retailers have raised concerns related to the safety of employees who confront thieves or customers who are bystanders to these crimes. Consumer safety is also at risk when expired or improperly stored stolen merchandise, such as baby formula or medicine, is resold online.
The Attorney General’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force is the first statewide, public-private collaboration of its kind in Illinois and is designed to foster cooperation among retailers, online marketplaces, law enforcement agencies and state’s attorneys dedicated to targeting organized retail crime enterprises. The task force allows Raoul’s office to utilize data and tips provided by retailers and partner across jurisdictions with law enforcement agencies to investigate organized retail crimes and trace thefts to the source. For example, the Organized Retail Crime Task Force, with support from Chicago law enforcement recovered more than $1 million worth of stolen goods from several Chicago-area storage units during December 2021. Raoul’s goal in establishing the task force is to continue to improve communication among public and private entities and utilize a multifaceted approach to combatting organized retail theft and related criminal activity.