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Bill at Minnesota Capitol would create new "organized retail theft" crime with stiffer penalties for stealing, reselling items

Legislators, business owners address growing retail crime
Legislators, business owners address growing retail crime 02:43

ST. PAUL, Minn. – Walter Dillon turned his love of shoes into a business, pouring all of the resources he had into making his dream a lasting legacy to leave his children.

But after five brazen break-ins in just a few months and thousands of dollars of merchandise stolen at his KKG Kickz store in Little Canada, he was forced to close its doors last year.

"I actually probably had more shoes taken than sold. That's sad to say, but it might be," Dillon said. "It started to become an unfortunate routine that I think nobody should have to go through."

But they took much more than shoes.

"They stole the dream of the business," he said.

His story was highlighted at the Capitol on Monday during a news conference, putting the spotlight on a bill that would create a new crime of organized retail theft and detail additional penalties, which include possible felony charges punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

It would target what supporters of the measure call sophisticated, large-scale thefts of merchandise that thieves steal with the intent to resell for profit. Bruce Nustad, president of the Minnesota Retailers Association, said it's amounted to $90 billion in total losses nationwide.

He also noted that 34 other states have similar language in their statutes.

"The benefit of that is to tell those career criminals that their business is not welcome here," Nustad said.  


Republicans and Democrats have signed on to co-author bills in both the House and Senate. Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, who is a prosecutor, said he can recall cases where he could've issued charges for organized retail theft if this language were the law at the time.

He said the problem has "gained momentum" in Minnesota in recent years.

"This bill is an important step forward to differentiate between that low-level shoplifting that we've had around forever and this new phenomenon, which is a real pernicious problem for our retailers," Stephenson said.

Last year, the Ramsey County Attorney's Office filed charges against six people in connection to stealing sprees at several Best Buy stores on Black Friday in 2021. Thieves, who were armed, escaped with $26,000 in merchandise. Law enforcement at the time described the operation as "very organized."

Dillon said a year after he closed his store following a fifth break-in, he's the one bearing the responsibility of the robberies, shouldering financial debt.

He hopes the bill cracks down on future crimes and changes course for business, so others don't have to face what he experienced.

"The guys who are doing the crimes, I really believe that they feel like that there's not too much to be done with them. The reward is greater than the risk," Dillon said. "I want to see the law put a little pressure on these guys to stop."

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