Illinois retailers praise senate passage of historic legislation to combat organized retail crime

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – On behalf of retailers across the state, the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) applauds lawmakers in the Senate for their bipartisan support and passage of HB1091, a comprehensive proposal to combat organized retail crime that has plagued neighborhoods across Chicago and communities throughout the state.


Crafted by IRMA in partnership with Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, the measure represents one of the most sweeping 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 a statewide intelligence gathering and sharing platform to allow retailers and law enforcement agencies to better coordinate.


“Organized retail crime robs our communities of tax dollars, threatens the safety of employees and customers, and puts our communities at risk of further crime including illegal firearm purchases, human trafficking and terrorism. By passing this measure, Illinois lawmakers are sending a message to criminals that these brazen thefts will not be tolerated and they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” said Rob Karr, president & CEO, IRMA. “I want to personally thank Attorney General Raoul for his partnership and tireless work on this issue and offer our appreciation to Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton and Rep. Kam Buckner for their leadership as well as every lawmaker who voted in favor of this important measure.”


The bill creates and defines the violation of organized retail crime, providing the emphasis and focus required to combat this dangerous form of retail theft, which is performed by criminal groups with the goal of reselling stolen items to fund illicit activities. The legislation specifically targets those organizing these crimes, which is defined as an individual who knowingly recruits, organizes, supervises, manages, finances or otherwise directs others to commit organized retail crime, which includes smash and grab robberies as well as the looting of supply chain vehicles. 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, 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 dedicated to investigating and prosecuting retail theft and illicit trade.


“Organized retail crime is committed by sophisticated criminal enterprises that harm our communities in ways that extend beyond lost revenue and stolen products. These complex operations rely on theft and resale of stolen products to fund and perpetuate the cycle of violence through even more dangerous illegal activities like trafficking drugs and firearms,” Raoul said. “The Organized Retail Crime Act will give my office and other law enforcement agencies the additional tools needed to continue to disrupt these criminal enterprises and combat the rise in organized retail crime. I appreciate Senator Glowiak Hilton’s leadership on this matter and the bipartisan support for this effort.”


The legislation 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 goods worth millions of dollars during a sting operation. IRMA also works with the United to Safeguard America 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.


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.