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Organized retail crime costs Utah businesses $1 billion

Sep 27, 2023, 7:39 PM | Updated: 7:41 pm

BOUNTIFUL — Target is closing nine stores in major cities across four states, claiming theft has made the environment unsafe for staff and customers.

Utah stores are also feeling the pinch and collectively losing upwards of $1 billion in stolen merchandise each year.

Members of the Taskforce Against Organized Retail Crime started this specific agency in 2020.

“Organized retail crime really started when online marketplaces came around,” said James Russell, a Supervising Special Agent with the Utah Attorney General’s Office.  “As the economy struggles – the theft goes up. Especially during COVID, we saw an increase, and it has just exploded since then.”

On Wednesday, in Bountiful, agents held an operation to track suspected thieves.  Agents monitored shopping patterns and then followed criminals to their next shoplifting location.

“We’ve got to find a way to get these aggregated into felonies because these thieves can bounce from city to city without having any communication from one store to the next,” Steve Jensen, a Case Unit Agent with the Utah Attorney General’s Office said.  “We do have the violence but it’s not to the levels that we are seeing around the country.”

Agents noted their communication with store owners is helpful in stopping criminal activity.  Agents mentioned prosecution is the toughest part and called for Utah lawmakers to pass stricter laws.

“Yesterday we made five arrests in about five or six hours, and we found that many of those were individuals who were hoping counties to commit crimes,” Agent Jensen said.  “We’re ahead of the game in the fact we have a team with AG’s office that is in place.  That is something many states don’t have.”

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Organized retail crime costs Utah businesses $1 billion