SPRINGFIELD – Illinois retailers now have a law on the books to help curb organized retail crime and hold ringleaders accountable, thanks to State Senator Michael E. Hastings.

Hastings (D-Frankfort), serves as a chief-cosponsor of House Bill 1091, which cracks down on smash and grabs and targets the organizers of retail crime to help promote economic growth and give Illinois businesses the tools to hold perpetrators responsible.

“These vicious criminal networks deprive our state of taxpayer dollars, risk the safety of employees and wreak havoc on businesses across our communities,” Hastings said. “This new law gives our state the opportunity to hold people accountable by adopting a comprehensive crime-curbing effort.”

House Bill 1091 defines organized retail crime as a criminal charge and gives prosecutors additional resources to charge crime ringleaders. Specifically, the measure codifies ORC as the theft of retail merchandise with the intent to sell. The law was negotiated with the assistance of the Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the office of the attorney general.

ORC was on the rise before 2020, but the pandemic created a shift to digital storefronts which has led to an increase in these types of crimes. While only 29% of retailers reported an average dollar value loss of $1,000 in 2019, that number dramatically rose to 50% in 2020. A small group can make off with thousands of dollars in merchandise in less than a minute when targeting high-value items.

“This new law is investing in law enforcement, holding criminals accountable and making it harder to resell stolen goods,” Hastings said. “Our local businesses are the foundation of our community. We need to do what we can to protect their integrity and promote public safety across our state.”

To prevent stolen goods from being sold online, the measure also creates the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces for Consumers Act, or the INFORM Act, to require third-party sellers to verify users’ identity with bank account numbers or other personal identifying information. Sellers who do not comply may be suspended.

House Bill 1091 passed the Senate and House with bipartisan support and was signed into law on Friday.