Attorney General Ashley Moody is teaming up with state lawmakers to address the rise of organized retail theft in Florida.
Amid a nationwide wave of smash-and-grab crime, Moody is urging lawmakers to review laws that prospectors use to target organized crime rings. The 2022 Legislative Session begins Jan. 11.
“We’ve seen the damage and disorder caused by brazen criminals across the country through terrifying smash-and-grab robberies, and we must continue to innovate to stay ahead of this national crime trend,” Moody said Tuesday at a Hialeah press conference.
The Tuesday announcement marks Moody’s latest effort to stomp organized retail theft. In December, she launched the Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange, or FORCE. The task force harmonizes retail stores and police, allowing them to notice trends and identify suspects.
“Organized retail crime has increased significantly over the last two years,” said Florida Retail Federation President Scott Shalley. “Criminal gangs are stealing hundreds, thousands and sometimes millions of dollars of merchandise, and they’re threatening the safety of our communities.”
Organized retail theft is indeed on the rise. According to a recent study, 70% of store owners nationwide report an increase in crime over the past year.
Republican Sen. Jim Boyd noted the crime wave comes as retailers remain burdened by issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Details of the upcoming legislative proposal are few. The Attorney General’s Office did say, however, the bill (or bills) would target shoplifters who steal multiple items from several locations within a short period of time. The proposals would also stiffen penalties.
Lawmakers, including Sens. Manny Diaz and Ileana Garcia, joined Moody at the press conference. They vowed to looks at ways to help Moody and prosecutors.
Rep. Chuck Clemons Sr., who was also in attendance, urged other lawmakers to join the effort.
“If you commit crime in Florida, you should expect to face justice and that is why it is so important that we work together this Session to stay ahead of the organized retail crime trends we are seeing nationwide,” Clemons said.