Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signs House Bill 1091, otherwise known as the INFORM Act, into law on Friday at Water Tower Place in Chicago. | Provided Photo

Gov. JB Pritzker on Friday signed a bill into law that aims to combat the rise in organized retail crime in Illinois and disrupt criminal enterprises.

“This new law represents another important step to fight crime and advance public safety in Illinois,” Pritzker said.

“This is how we protect store workers and customers, prevent militarized storefronts and empty commercial corridors, and across the board, make communities safer for all who call them home. And I look forward to furthering our work to shape a public safety system that works for all of us, including ensuring the victim rights advanced today are carried throughout our justice system,” Pritzker said.

House Bill 1091, otherwise known as the INFORM Act, enforces the new crime of Organized Retail Theft.

Those who violate the law by knowingly engaging with others in a theft valued at $300 or more would be guilty of a Class 3 felony.

Those who engage in retail theft from one or more establishments would be guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said he initiated House Bill 1091 to address organized retail crime in partnership with the Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

The legislation closes gaps in current Illinois law that criminals exploit and provides law enforcement with more tools to address organized retail crimes, Raoul said.

[Suggested Article]  Illinois House and Senate pass massive amendment to SAFE-T Act, sending measure to Gov. Pritzker to sign

“Organized retail crime is committed by sophisticated criminal enterprises that harm our communities in ways that extend beyond lost revenue and stolen products. These complex operations rely on theft and resale of stolen products to fund and perpetuate the cycle of violence through even more dangerous illegal activities like trafficking drugs and firearms,” Raoul said.

“House Bill 1091 will give my office and other law enforcement agencies the additional tools needed to continue to disrupt these criminal enterprises and combat the rise in organized retail crime. I appreciate Senator Glowiak Hilton and Representative Kam Buckner’s leadership on this matter and the bipartisan support for this effort,” he said.

Senator Glowiak Hilton said organized retail crime threatens “our local economies and public safety.”

“HB 1091 gives prosecutors additional resources to hold perpetrators accountable and expands the comprehensive approach to help stop the rise in organized retail crime across the state. I am proud to work with Attorney General Raoul and our other partners on this effort,” Hilton said.

Rob Karr, President & CEO of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said the law sends a message to criminals that “these brazen thefts will not be tolerated and they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”

[Suggested Article]  State police updates 'clear and present danger' rules in response to Highland Park mass shooting

“Organized retail crime robs our communities of tax dollars, threatens the safety of employees and customers, and puts our communities at risk of further crime including illegal firearm purchases, human trafficking and terrorism,” Karr said.

Raoul said that organized retail crime and retail fraud are often mistakenly viewed as being isolated incidents, however, organized crime rings are often behind the acts.

Organized criminal enterprises connected to the drug trade, human trafficking and other criminal activities target big box stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, auto dealerships and other retailers to carry out sophisticated theft operations, including across county and state borders.

Raoul said that enterprises use boosters and mules to coordinate thefts of large amounts of merchandise, which is then resold below market value using online marketplaces in order to fund the enterprise’s other illegal activities.

Raoul also said that the legislation puts in place stronger oversight of those taking advantage of online marketplaces and creates a statewide intelligence platform to help retailers and law enforcement agencies better coordinate their enforcement efforts.

[Suggested Article]  Only ‘technical’ fixes to SAFE-T Act expected as Illinois lawmakers close first week of veto session

The legislation requires online marketplaces to verify the identity of high-volume sellers.

The proposal also aims to reduce a criminal’s ability to avoid prosecution for organized retail crime.

HB 1091 would allow any state’s attorney where any element of organized retail crime takes place to prosecute the whole crime.

Those participating in smash and grab robberies, as well as looting of supply chain vehicles such as trains and cargo trucks, could also be prosecuted for organized retail crime.

The legislation would provide the attorney general’s office to utilize the statewide grand jury to prosecute organized retail crime.

The legislature appropriated $5 million to the attorney general’s office, which will award grants to state attorney’s offices and law enforcement agencies that investigate and prosecute organized retail crime.

Raoul said the law builds on his office’s Organized Retail Crime Task Force, which is the first statewide, public-private collaboration of its kind in Illinois.

The task force allows the attorney general’s office to use data and tips provided by retailers and partner with law enforcement agencies to investigate organized retail crimes and trace thefts to the source.

The legislation is effective January 1, 2023.