At the height of the holiday season, retail stores in Chicago and across the country are experiencing a rash of thefts.
Multiple in-store thefts have been reported recently on the Magnificent Mile amounting to millions of dollars in stolen merchandise. But retailers say it’s not just about lost revenue — it’s about safety — and they’re calling for city officials to put more protections in place for businesses.
“What we have seen is that crime has increased over 60% in the last five years,” Rob Karr, president of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, said. “We’ve been at this issue for at least a decade, but crime theft is growing. I think what has changed is – at least in some areas – it has become a lot more brazen and that’s what’s changed [Chicago’s retail areas]. If we go back to a point of time where everyone is working together, where there are serious consequences for those who engage in this behavior, there has to be some accountability.”
Although retailers believe strong enforcement would reduce retail theft. However, reformists believe that extra policing and surveillance would contribute to having perpetrators of crime – youth of color – behind bars. They also argue that those participating in these crimes are doing so to sustain themselves financially during a pandemic-induced recession, stealing merchandise that they will later sell.
Karr doesn’t believe that narrative, and says retail theft hasn’t changed in nature from pre pandemic times.
“Fewer than 20% of shoplifters who are caught were out of means. This is not a need issue. Organized retail crime has been and continues to be about feeding the illicit trade of the black market, and that’s what’s continuing to be at play here,” he said.