Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Monday convened a closed meeting with representatives of Metro East law enforcement agencies, the retail industry and lawmakers to discuss the growing problem of organized retail crime.
Raoul (shown) visited Collinsville, where the Attorney General’s Office partnered with Rep. Jay Hoffman to host a discussion between the attorney gfeneral’s chief of investigations and prosecutors from the office; lawmakers; Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine; St. Clair County State’s Attorney James Gomric; representatives of the retail industry; and representatives of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, the Collinsville Police Department, the Swansea Police Department, the Caseyville Police Department, the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Police Department, the Pontoon Beach Police Department, the Edwardsville Police Department, the O’Fallon Police Department, and the Wood River Police Department. 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 would like to thank Rep. Jay Hoffman for helping us convene this discussion with their colleagues in the General Assembly, law enforcement and retail. 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 Collinsville meeting was to identify opportunities for the Attorney General’s office and the task force to partner with Metro East 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 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, similar to the investigation into today’s retail theft case, 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 combating organized retail theft and related criminal activity.