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New Illinois task force to battle retail thefts

September 17, 2021
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on Sept. 13 announced a partnership between public and private entities, including the Chicago Automobile Trade Association, designed to combat the increase in organized retail crime. Such crime and retail fraud can be mistaken for isolated incidents committed by low-level offenders, but organized crime rings often are behind the incidents.
The new Organized Retail Crime Task Force is comprised of career investigators and attorneys from the attorney general’s Criminal Enforcement Division working with the U.S. Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security, the Illinois State Police, the Barrington Police Department, the West Chicago Police Department, the Cook County Sheriff’s office, the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police and the Illinois Association of State’s Attorneys. 
The task force will consult with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, the Magnificent Mile Association, the CATA, the Internet Association, and national retailers including CVS, Home Depot, Lowe’s, Target, Walgreens and Walmart.
"Organized retail crime is a multibillion dollar per year industry," Raoul said, "but more important than the financial cost is the danger organized retail crime poses to our communities. These brazen, violent crimes are committed by sophisticated criminal organizations that are involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking and other serious crimes. 
"Even during the looting we saw last year, we came to understand that some of these criminal acts were not merely opportunistic, but organized in advance. The task force will allow investigators and prosecutors in my office to better collaborate with our law enforcement partners and ensure cooperation between law enforcement, as well as retailers and online marketplaces, to protect communities, consumers and combat the rise in retail crime."
Before the recent rise in auto thefts and carjackings in Illinois, the crime was decreasing before the pandemic. QuoteWizard looked at statistics from 2010 through 2019 and found auto thefts in Illinois decreased by 21 percent, one of the biggest drops in the country.
The theft of auto parts has skyrocketed in many states during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly when it comes to catalytic converters. According to State Farm claims data, Illinois ranks fifth in the nation for auto parts theft.
Because retail crimes often are coordinated by organized crime outfits, various law enforcement agencies may be investigating the same target in different communities. Without sufficient coordination, both agencies can be led to believe that they are dealing with isolated actors rather than a pattern of organized crime.