Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart and representatives from the Illinois Retail Merchants Association to sign legislation that will strengthen the state's efforts to combat organized retail crime.
"Supporting Illinois businesses is key to our long-term economic growth," Governor Quinn said. "This important new law will help protect retailers and communities throughout Illinois from the economically damaging practices of organized retail crime."
Organized retail crime occurs when an individual, group or gang illegally obtains retail merchandise through theft and fraud in substantial quantities. House Bill 6460 will expand law enforcement's ability to charge and prosecute offenders of organized retail crime.
Under the new law, prosecutors will be able to seek forfeiture of assets of those convicted of organized retail crime. The forfeiture of assets represents a major legislative step forward in providing financial disincentive to organizers and participants of organized retail crime.
Across the country, the retail industry loses an estimated $30 billion a year to this practice. Additionally, it is estimated that the state of Illinois lost $77 million in tax dollars not collected in 2010 as a result of these thefts, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office.
Organized retail crime puts residents throughout Illinois at risk. Through organized retail crime, stores in low-income communities can end up stocking stolen merchandise, such as over-the-counter medication and baby formula, whose product temperature and caretaking needs have not been satisfied. The crimes also drive up prices for all merchandise.
"This legislation represents a great step forward in preventing the abuse of Illinois businesses by individuals who target them for theft," said Rep. Constance Howard (D-Chicago). "At the same time, this legislation provides a brighter future for those who seek to rehabilitate after committing crimes. This is a bill about a successful Illinois economy -- successful businesses and successful job-seekers."
"Retail theft causes price increases for everyone. Therefore, the perpetrator must learn their lesson and pay their debt to society. Once the perpetrator has paid their debt to society, re-entry into the world of work and good citizenship should be our goal," said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago). "I would like to thank my colleagues for their hard work on this important legislation."
House Bill 6460 also allows individuals who have completed supervision for retail theft to have their convictions expunged after two years, rather than five. This offers ex-offenders greater opportunity to successfully seek employment. The new law takes effect June 1.