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‘Cracking Down’: Lawmakers Unveil Bills To Combat Organized Retail Theft

   DailyWire.com
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Members of Congress have introduced legislation to combat organized retail theft as sophisticated criminal enterprises resell items and increase costs for businesses.

Group robberies have gained public attention over the past two years, with some retailers and convenience chains spending millions on new security efforts or closing locations in particularly dangerous cities. In response, lawmakers are advancing the Combatting Organized Retail Crime Act and the INFORM Consumers Act.

The former bill would establish the Organized Retail Crime Coordination Center at Homeland Security Investigations, thereby launching a joint effort among law enforcement agencies and retail industry representatives to “create a cohesive national strategy and curb organized retail crime,” according to a statement from Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO). The latter bill would target the reselling of stolen goods by requiring verification of “high-volume third-party sellers in online retail marketplaces” such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace, according to a press release from Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

National Retail Federation Vice President of Government Relations Jason Straczewski said during an interview with The Daily Wire that criminal enterprises “are able to recruit individuals to steal very specific items in large quantities from multiple locations throughout a time period, including across state lines” before the items are resold online, at flea markets, or at street corner stores. The introduction of face masks and rapid growth of e-commerce since the spring of 2020 have facilitated retail theft.

“Retail theft is one lucrative aspect for them. Sometimes it’s about money laundering. They’re also involved in drugs, human trafficking, and other serious crimes,” Straczewski added. “Our members have reported and have seen instances where their own stolen product is sold back into the supply chain and resold to them.”

Retailers indicated a 26.5% increase in organized retail crime last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation, while nearly 90% of respondents said that the pandemic worsened risk for their companies through higher degrees of violence, shoplifting, employee theft, and organized crime.

The thefts correspond with efforts from many progressive city officials to decrease prosecution of minor crimes. In Philadelphia, where convenience chain Wawa recently announced the closure of two stores after dozens of young people ransacked a location in the northeastern portion of the city, District Attorney Larry Krasner has prioritized relaxing bail policies.

“Over the years, signals have been sent to the community that nonviolent property crimes wouldn’t be as aggressively prosecuted as more violent crimes,” Straczewski remarked. “That sent a signal to criminals that there was a soft underbelly.”

Some states have explicitly decriminalized shoplifting in recent years. California, for instance, passed a ballot measure in 2014 that prescribed misdemeanor penalties to nonviolent property crimes where the value in question does not exceed $950.

According to Straczewski, however, local officials are now “cracking down” in many parts of the country. “Criminals are very smart. They figure out what that dollar amount is, whether it’s $800 or $1,200, depending on the locality they steal up to or just below that amount, multiple times from different retail stores,” he said, noting that the involvement of federal law enforcement agencies under the new legislation would aid with prosecuting crimes across interstate borders.

Beyond economic and cultural realities, crime ranks among the most salient issues driving voters to the polls in the upcoming midterm elections. Republicans boast a 14% lead over Democrats on public safety, including a 34% lead among independents, according to a poll from ABC News and The Washington Post. Twelve of the major American cities which set new homicide records last year were run by Democratic officials.

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