Grassley: New legislation targets organized retail crime and ‘flash mob’ robberies

WASHINGTON — Iowans may’ve seen security camera footage on the TV news where coordinated “flash mobs” of perhaps a dozen people or more swarm a store, steal armloads of pricey products, then bolt for the exits — all within a matter of seconds.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says we’re seeing a dramatic rise in this brand of organized retail crime and he’s introducing legislation today  to target this type of theft ring. “It’s highly organized by underworld people,” Grassley says. “They get sometimes young people, sometimes older people, to go into these big boxes and get the most expensive items they can, and then it’s fenced.”

A federal report says organized retail crime costs retailers some  $720,000 dollars for every billion dollars in sales — a rise of 50-percent since 2015. While the thefts themselves can take a serious bite out of an individual store’s bottom line, Grassley says the large sums of money being generated when the stolen goods are fenced are often going overseas.  “When this money comes in, a lot of times it’s laundered back to China,” Grassley says, “and then in China, it pays for fentanyl that comes to Mexico and involves the cartels.”

Grassley is co-sponsoring the bipartisan, bicameral Combating Organized Retail Crime Act, which would create an Organized Retail Crime Coordination Center to ensure resources and information-sharing will be available across state, federal and private-sector partners. He says the legislation would also set up a coordinated, multi-agency hub and new tools to better target the networks and trends driving organized retail crime.