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Florida AG Ashley Moody Announces Legislative Efforts To Tackle Organized Retail Theft

HIALEAH (CBSMiami) – Attorney General Ashley Moody is hoping to make it a lot harder for organized retail theft rings to operate in the state. She joined local leaders in Hialeah Tuesday to push for new laws that will help prosecutors mount charges against criminals involved in such crimes.

"What it does is it adds another way for a prosecutor on multi-jurisdictional prosecution to go after folks.  So, instead of just using a dollar amount which is sometimes very difficult if you're hitting multiple stores in multiple jurisdictions within a short amount of time, we can prosecute that as organized retail theft," State Attorney General Ashley Moody said.

The move comes one month after Moody launched a statewide task force of police agencies, prosecutors and business representatives targeting organized retail theft.

Moody said in December the task force will focus on organized criminal schemes that can result in major losses by helping to spot trends, identify suspects and take down massive, organized retail theft rings.

The interactive database, called Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange (FORCE), creates a space for shareable, searchable information on thousands of incidents of theft statewide.

"So, you can put the pieces of the puzzle together and you realize one theft wasn't one theft that one theft was one of a hundred thefts," Scott Shalley, Florida Retail Federation said.

Shalley also expressed that organized crime rings are getting more violent, and often lure minors to commit crimes.  That's why he thinks the laws must change.

"One in five Floridian works in retail, retail is one of the primary foundations of our economy and when they're stolen from prices go up, we don't our employees to be vulnerable," he added.

Through the T-FORCE database, retailers will have the ability to upload data about recent retail theft occurrences. Data, such as items stolen, suspect description, method of operation and vehicle identification organized in T-FORCE, will make it easier to identify a nexus among seemingly single-incident thefts and could lead to organizational charges and increased penalties. Once information is uploaded, other retailers and law enforcement agencies will have access to the information, providing a greater ability to link related crimes and perpetrators.

Seventy percent of store owners across the nation have reported an increase in crime, according to Moody.

According to the National Retail Federation, organized retail theft costs businesses in Florida and across the United States an estimated $30 billion every year. Since taking office in 2019, Attorney General Moody's OSP has filed nearly 60 cases involving more than 250 individuals suspected of organized retail theft or crimes related to organized retail theft. FORCE will help bolster these ongoing efforts.

The new proposal underway could make penalties stiffer, but that's not a guarantee.

"With mounting charges is there going to be mounting penalties, and so that's one of the things that we will hash out," Alex Rizo, 110th District (R) said.

Leaders hope the bill will make it out of committee and for it to be introduced within the first two weeks of the new session.

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