Bill to crack down on ‘smash-and-grabs’ passes both chambers
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - As both sides of the chamber use crime as a talking point for election season, legislation that takes aim at mass retail theft passed both houses of the Illinois General Assembly.
“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,” Illinois Retail Merchant Association President Rob Karr said.
Attorney General Kwame Raoul was a major proponent of the bill, even making appearances on the floors of both chambers to drum up support for the legislation. He formed a task force earlier this year to study retail crime, leading to the emphasis on focusing on large retail thefts resold for profit.
The approved bill addresses retail crime in a few ways. Firstly, it looks to focus on “organized” retail crime, which is more often associated with thefts seen on viral videos, where dozens of people pour into a store, taking all they can carry in their arms. Looking into those crimes showed that merchandise is them resold via online marketplaces.
The bill creates a legal definition for the charge of organized retail crime, which is when two or more people work together to steal merchandise and resell the items for profit to “fund other illegal activities.”
To combat the resale of the items, the bill would also require online retailers to verify “high-volume” sellers, meaning sellers who list hundreds of items in a month. They would be required to get contact information, and other forms of verification from the seller.
Senate sponsor Suzy Glowiak-Hilton (D-Oak Brook) believes reducing the ability to resell will reduce other crimes she believes are funded by the theft.
“The issue would help law enforcement find those monetizing stolen merchandise which often funds illicit activities including gun, drug and human trafficking,” Glowiak-Hilton said. “The bill looks to reduce human trafficking by removing the funding that is garnered through sales of stolen merchandise.”
However, some legislators said the measure did not go far enough, if at all, to address the issue. Senators John Curran (R-Downers Grove) and Steve McClure (R-Springfield) both spoke out against the bill, arguing it does little to nothing to actually stop retail theft.
“I see this bill as a small step forward, but unfortunately I think it’s just a small step,” Curran, who worked on the initial introduction of the bill, said. “This bill started as a giant step forward in combating organized retail theft, and unfortunately since that start it has backtracked significantly.”
The measure will go to the governor for signing.
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