retail theft 042222SPRINGFIELD – Illinois retailers will soon have a law on the books to help curb organized retail crime and hold ringleaders accountable, thanks to State Senator Michael E. Hastings.

Hastings (D-Frankfort), serves as a chief-cosponsor of House Bill 1091, which cracks down on smash and grabs and targets the organizers of retail crime to help promote economic growth and give Illinois businesses the tools to hold perpetrators responsible.

“These criminal networks deprive our state of vital taxpayer dollars, risk the safety of employees and wreak havoc on businesses across the state,” Hastings said. “This measure gives our state the opportunity to hold people responsible by enacting one of the most comprehensive crime-curbing efforts in the nation.”

In partnership with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the office of the attorney general, this initiative defines organized retail crime as a criminal charge and gives prosecutors additional resources to charge crime ringleaders. Specifically, the measure codifies ORC as the theft of retail merchandise with the intent to sell.

Under House Bill 1091, prosecutors would have new opportunities to bring charges against offenders regardless of where the crimes takes place. For example, if the conspiracy, theft and selling occurred in different jurisdictions, each jurisdiction would have the ability to prosecute the entire crime. The Illinois attorney general would also have the ability to prosecute via a statewide grand jury.

ORC was on the rise before 2020, but the pandemic created a shift to digital storefronts which has led to an increase in these types of crimes. While only 29% of retailers reported an average dollar value loss of $1,000 in 2019, that number dramatically rose to 50% in 2020. The most common items targeted by ORC perpetrators include designer clothing and handbags, laundry detergent, allergy medicine, razors, high-end liquor and pain relievers. A small group can make off with thousands of dollars in merchandise in less than a minute when targeting high-value items

“This initiative will spur meaningful change by investing in law enforcement, holding criminals responsible and making it harder to resell stolen goods,” Hastings said. “Illinois’ businesses are the foundation of our great state. We need to do what we can to protect their integrity and promote public safety in our communities.”

To prevent stolen goods from being sold online, the measure also creates the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or the INFORM Act, to require third-party sellers to verify users’ identity with bank account numbers or other personal identifying information. Sellers who do not comply may be suspended.

House Bill 1091 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and now heads to the governor’s desk for consideration.