CHICAGO (WLS) — After multiple smash-and-grabs at malls in the suburbs and at many high-end shops along Michigan Avenue, Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill into law Friday imposing harsher punishments on those who commit retail crimes.
“This is about the safety of our communities,” Pritzker said. “It’s about preventing militarized storefronts and empty commercial.”
The governor put pen to paper to sign the Inform Act into law, which enforces the new crime of organized retail theft.
It’s the latest step in Illinois’ effort to fight a crime that has been plaguing big and small businesses around the state.
Surveillance videos captured several incidents showing mobs of people rushing into stores to steal goods from luxury goods to convenience stores, even while employees or customers are inside. Macy’s, Nordstrom, Burberry, and LensCrafters along the Mag Mile have all been hit.
Last December alone, Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s organized crime task force retrieved one million dollars’ worth of stolen items from storage units.
Also in December, a group of 14 people ransacked the Louis Vuitton in Oak Brook, making off with $120,000 in merchandise.
WATCH | 14 involved in Oak Brook Louis Vuitton grab-and-run
The new law cracks down on the ringleaders organizing these crimes who are profiting and using it to fund other illegal activities.
“This is not aimed at a low-income parent desperate to feed their child,” Governor Pritzker said. “It’s not about a kid making a short-sighted mistake. This is about a multi-billion dollar industry of organized criminals carrying out sophisticated theft operations to turn a profit on the resale market.”
As part of the new law, those who knowingly engage with others in a theft valued at $300 or more would be guilty of a Class Three felony.
“These raids and acts not only put retail employees and customers at risk, but also deprives local municipalities and the state of much needed tax dollars,” said Chauncey Rice, with Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
Those who engage in a retail theft from one or more establishments would be guilty of a Class Two felony, which would carry more jail time.
“Deterring retail crime starts with supporting law enforcement, with holding the ringleaders responsible and making it tougher to sell those goods stolen,” State Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton said.
The law allows prosecutors to bring perpetrators to justice even if the conspiracy, theft and/or selling crosses county boundaries. They are now able to prosecute the whole crime.
The Illinois Retail Merchants Association partnered with several lawmakers to make the law a reality.
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