Illinois Attorney General’s task force recovers more than $1M in stolen retail items

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 4:55 PM CST
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CHICAGO (WGEM) - The Illinois Attorney General’s office is cracking down on organized retail crime with the help of local law enforcement. Kwame Raoul announced Friday that his special task force recently found thousands of stolen goods inside storage units in Chicago.

Investigators with Raoul’s organized retail crime task force worked with Chicago police to find four semi-trailers full of stolen items worth millions of dollars.

The attorney general said his team found clothes, beauty products, electronics, furniture, and food from nationwide retailers. Raoul’s task force brings together law enforcement, state attorneys, and retailers to target organized retail crime organizations.

While this crime took place in Chicago, Raoul said he talked with law enforcement across the state who see similar problems. Raoul emphasized that this has become a nationwide issue and other states have taken note.

“They’re sort of following our lead and establishing similar task forces within their states,” Raoul said. “So this is evolving the way that law enforcement is being pulled together to collaborate and share information because we can’t do it alone.”

Raoul said these organized schemes are popping up in metro areas across the country because there is a well-organized secondary market for stolen goods. He explained information sharing between retailers and law enforcement is the best way to combat more crimes of this level.

While teenagers have been arrested for smash and grab crimes, law enforcement said gangs are involved in this recent rise in theft.

“This isn’t just a simple retail theft that people are talking about,” said Brendan Deenihan, Chief of Detectives for the Chicago Police Department. “This is organized criminal networks and the message is that there’s a task force in place and we have remarkable officers who are communicating that we’re taking this very seriously. We know these are extremely complex investigations.”

The Attorney General’s office noted the groups behind these crimes are often connected to the drug trade and human trafficking. Raoul said this investigation will continue over the next few weeks.

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association also thanked the task force for its efforts. IRMA President Rob Karr says this seizure can help protect communities and send a strong message that these crimes will not be tolerated.

“By working together, we can better understand how these perpetrators operate and work to dismantle these criminal rings that steal tens of billions of dollars a year, using profits from thefts to fund other illicit activities such as illegal firearm purchases,” Karr said.

Still, Raoul said online shoppers should also be aware of criminal activity if they find a deal that looks too good to be true or a bit too overpriced. Those items may also be stolen.

“I am committed to identifying the perpetrators behind this and other organized retail crimes in Illinois,” Raoul said.

In the meantime, officials said you can expect to see more security at malls and other shopping centers during the holiday season.

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