BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — A panel at the Mall of America on Thursday focused on cracking down on organized retail theft. Police, prosecutors and retailers discussed a new law that they hope will cut down on the growing problem.
"We are overdue for a law like this in Minnesota," Charlie Anderson said.
Anderson is a commander with the St. Paul Police Department, but he's also the founder of the Minnesota Organized Retail Crime Association known to its members as ORCA.
"Organized retail crime is really stealing merchandise, oftentimes from a store, and then reselling it on the marketplace," Anderson said.
Anderson said the new law, which went into effect in August, differentiates between someone shoplifting a pair of socks and focuses on two or more people who are part of a theft enterprise. He points toas an example of how serious the problem has become. Losing stores means employees lose work and communities lose business.
"Anybody that knows organized retail crime knows that ORC criminals are involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, firearms, gang activity. They go hand in hand," said Anderson.
The National Retail Federation has reported a 300% increase in theft since 2019, and along with that has come increased threats and violence towards employees and customers.
In a number of cases, guns and knives have been used.
"In one case we are talking about a railroad spike was presented as a weapon," ORCA president Cody Johnson said.
Johnson says the purpose of Thursday's panel is to educate all parties on how the new law can work in their favor to cut down on organized theft.
"We are finally drawing a line in the sand saying, 'No more, we will not be victims to this any longer,'" said Johnson. "I'm very optimistic about this, and we've already had conversations with many attorneys and prosecutors about how to do this the right way."
Organizers are also talking about creating a retail theft task force statewide, which would operate like a gang task force. The National Retail Federation estimates that retailers saw about $112 billion in stolen merchandise just last year.
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