Bill on Gov. Pritzker's desk would crack down on organized retail crime in multiple ways, amid spike in such crime on Mag Mile and elsewhere
CHICAGO (CBS) -- We've seen smash-and-grab retail thefts happen across the Chicago area – in the city and suburbs alike.
Now, a new law waiting on Gov. JB Pritzker's signature will make it easier for police to catch these criminals.
As CBS 2's Tara Molina reported Friday, this comes as the continued trend of smash-and-grab retails thefts has begun to affect the city and state's bottom line – in lost tax revenue, lost retailers, and other ways.
The Magnificent Mile in particular has been pummeled by these thefts the past couple years. The thefts can involve tens of thousands of dollars' worth of merchandise being stolen in minutes.
We have tracked the growing crime trend.
Now, if the bill targeting organized retail crime is signed by the governor, we are told the public could start seeing the impact as soon as this summer.
"At least now, we have a foundation in place to take care of these issues," said Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.
Karr worked directly with lawmakers and Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul on the legislation.
"It creates a statewide intelligence gathering and sharing platform for asset protection individuals and law enforcement partners both the federal, state, and local level," he said.
Such an intelligence-gathering platform is something almost every other state in the country already has in place.
Also, the bill would enact a crackdown down on third-party marketplaces for stolen goods - requiring them to verify the seller and goods offered for sale, and get contact info from each seller.
The goal of the bill is also to work toward closing prosecution loopholes of which Karr says criminal groups are taking advantage - giving jurisdiction to one state's attorney when crimes occur in more than one county.
"So let's say something is stolen in Cook, and it's stored in Will County, it is and fenced in Lake County," Karr said. "Any one of those jurisdictions that discovers it can try for the whole thing."
We asked Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx's office about that - since we could see crimes prosecuted in other counties. The State's Attorney's office said they can't comment on pending legislation.
But the State's Attorney's office did share some data with us about criminal reviews and prosecutions of crimes in the 60611 ZIP code – which includes the Mag Mile and other prime shopping districts:
Here is the data requested for YTD charges in zip code 60611 only. As a reminder, we included the previous background information sent to you regarding retail theft cases. Please note, cases that reached disposition during the specific time frame may have been initiated prior to the selected time frame.
Between 1/1/2022 and 4/13/2022 (103 days), the CCSAO reviewed and made a charging decision for 24 Gun case(s) in ZIP Code 60611. 19 case(s) were approved at a 79% approval rate. 20 case(s) were prosecuted and 17 convicted at a 85% conviction rate.
Adult Felony Retail Theft
Between 1/1/2022 and 4/13/2022 (103 days), the CCSAO reviewed and made a charging decision for 29 Retail Theft case(s) in ZIP Code 60611. 20 case(s) were approved at a 69% approval rate. 7 case(s) were prosecuted and 4 convicted at a 57% conviction rate.
Between 1/1/2022 and 4/13/2022 (103 days), the CCSAO reviewed and made a filing decision for 0 Gun case(s) in this area. 0 case(s) were filed. 2 case(s) were disposed and 2 adjudicated at a 100% adjudication rate.
Juvenile Retail Theft
Between 1/1/2022 and 4/13/2022 (103 days), the CCSAO reviewed and made a filing decision for 0 case(s) in this area. 0 case(s) were filed. 0 case(s) were disposed and 0 adjudicated.
The State's Attorney's office also supplied these tables of the top reviewed and prosecuted adult felony cases in the 60611 ZIP code so far this year – through Wednesday of this week.
The State's Attorney's office noted that in December 2016, State's Attorney Foxx increased the threshold for felony retail theft to $1,000, so as to allow prosecutors "to focus on the drivers of violence rather than low level, nonviolent offenses. The number one referred charge today is guns." Some such cases may be charged as misdemeanors and are not included in the data.
But the crime numbers are rising. We ran the latest and narrowed in on the top two official city community areas for retail theft. They are the Near North Side - up 145.7 percent this year with 339 cases, and the Loop - up 66.1 percent with 294 cases. Thefts are also up 101.1 percent on the Near West Side, 129 percent in Lakeview, and 125.9 percent in West Town.
Despite that, there was quite a bit of back-and-forth on the organized retail crime bill. Some lawmakers said it is not strong enough, while victims advocacy groups called it an overreach – noting that domestic violence and human trafficking victims are convicted for shoplifting, when it's a survival tactic.
Molina is told concerns were addressed in the final version of the bill, and will continue to be addressed.
The American Civil Liberties Union issued the following statement: "The final bill addressing organized retail theft was a vast improvement over the original proposal that would have allowed for the arrest of people merely for thinking of engaging in retail shoplifting. We never thought that a new offense was necessary to address this issue. We will be watching how this law is utilized if signed into law to ensure that it does not become a tool to drive mass incarceration and over policing."
Attorney General Raoul, who leads a task force focused on these issues, said in a statement that the legislation gives his office the tools they need to disrupt and combat these growing crimes.
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