Illinois proposal would create agency to combat organized retail theft gangs

Illinois is one of only three states that do very little to help local police and prosecutors combat organized retail theft.

A bi-partisan proposal to change that is pending in the General Assembly. It comes after a series of well-planned attacks that stole merchandise worth millions of dollars from stores in suburban malls and downtown Chicago.

"The Chicago Police Department tries to monitor social media," said Rob Karr, president and CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association. "DuPage County tries to monitor social media. Everybody's doing it independently. Everybody's got their own investigation, ’ok, I’ve got this event.’ And they're not connecting the broader dots, which organized retail crime requires."


After months of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Democrats and Republicans support House Bill 1091. It would allow the Illinois Attorney General to seat a statewide grand jury that could issue indictments for organized retail theft.

A state's attorney in one county could indict organized criminal ring leaders for retail theft in multiple counties, and a new agency would be created specifically to combat organized retail theft gangs.

State Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton (D-Western Springs) — whose district includes Oak Brook Center — said her constituents are fed up with the organized robbery rings.

She and State Senator John Curran (R-Downers Grove) indicated lawmakers may approve $5 million in first-year funding for a proposed new agency intended to coordinate the fight against organized retail theft.