Illinois recently announced an organized retail crime task force, a partnership between multiple law enforcement groups and business groups including CVS, Target, Walgreens, Lowe's, Home Depot and Walmart.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul announced details Monday morning at the Thompson Center surrounded by many of the partners in a first of its kind collaboration for the state.
Retail theft is a growing problem, now costing $45-billion every year.
Raoul said during the widespread looting last year, they saw that there was an organized crime element helping to fuel the jump in retail crime.
"Often, theft from retail establishments can be connected to human trafficking, money laundering, narcotics, violent crime and more," Raoul said. "Whether they occur at auto dealers, pharmacies, big box stores, or at a store along the Mag Mile, these thefts have become increasingly brazen and violent, putting both customers and employees at risk of harm."
With the new partnership, Raoul says the goal is to improve communication between the public and private entities and then use data and tips from retailers to track thieves down.
"The loss is significant. It has the potential to erode consumer confidence among tenants and certainly has employees second guessing their decision to work in these businesses. It is not limited to Michigan Avenue but is certainly critical to our district's health," said Kimberly Bares, President and CEO of Magnificent Mile Association.
Retail thefts have jumped dramatically since the pandemic started. At CVS, for example, they have seen a 37-percent increase and they say their stolen products are often resold on trusted websites.
"In reality, these consumers are buying stolen items such as over the counter medication, infant formula and other items with no guarantee that product safety and effectiveness has been maintained since illegally removed from the retailers' controlled storage conditions," said Thomas Moriarty, General Counsel of CVS Health.
From the looting that shook Chicago last year to retail thefts happening every day, Illinois AG Raoul says you cannot blame just the thieves. He says organized crime is involved and explains that, "those being arrested are often used as mules at the lowest level of a larger enterprise."
Because this is statewide, law enforcement does not need to worry about crossing county lines when they investigate and prosecute crime organizations.