Attorney General Phil Weiser creates statewide taskforce to combat organized retail theft, curb online sales of stolen goods
Dec. 28, 2022 (DENVER) – Attorney General Phil Weiser today announced the formation of a statewide taskforce to provide greater coordination among law enforcement to identify, disrupt, and prosecute organized criminal rings that steal goods from retailers and resell them through online marketplaces.
The taskforce will bring together law enforcement from around the state, create a shared set of resources for cross-jurisdictional investigations, share best practices, and provide a point of engagement for private sector and non-profit organizations looking to address this rising scourge.
The formation of the statewide taskforce comes weeks before a new state law, House Bill 22-1099, goes into effect, which aims to reduce and prevent the sale of stolen goods anonymously through Internet marketplaces. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, the new law will require companies that operate online marketplace platforms to identify online sellers, verify seller information, and provide seller disclosures to consumers. HB22-1099 also requires online marketplaces to place an easily identifiable reporting mechanism on their platforms giving consumers a tool to flag and report suspicious activity.
Attorney General Weiser issued a public advisory informing companies that operate online marketplaces of their new obligations under Colorado law.
Additionally, the attorney general is seeking additional resources from the General Assembly Joint Budget Committee for the Department of Law’s Special Prosecutions Unit to staff new efforts designed primarily for investigating and disrupting organized retail theft rings, as well as enforcing the new online retail theft law.
“Organized retail theft harms business, employees, and customers. Last legislative session, I partnered with the business community and retail leaders to pass legislation to clamp down on these criminal enterprises. I’m thankful to the bill sponsors, to our industry partners, and to law enforcement for their partnership and for the work ahead to curb this criminal activity,” Attorney General Weiser said.
Twenty-first Judicial District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said: “Organized criminal exploitation of Colorado’s laws has resulted in a rise in some crimes including retail theft. The changes made last year at the State Capitol, which will soon go into effect, were designed to plug this hole. Attorney General Weiser’s creation of a multi-jurisdictional task force will help ensure Colorado gets the best possible results as we see the implementation of the new law.”
According to a report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, organized retail crime inflicts major losses on stores, with losses rising over 50 percent in the last five years to $700,000 for each $1 billion in sales in 2020. These crime rings not only impact large retailers; 54% of small business owners experienced an uptick in shoplifting in 2021 as well. These crimes carry significant financial harm for businesses, drive costs higher for consumers, and create unsafe working conditions for employees.
“Our member stores have seen property theft rise exponentially both in our state, and around the nation, so we’re very pleased Attorney General Weiser is committed to shining a spotlight on the problem. We know that Organized Retail Crime costs our Colorado retailers tens of millions of dollars each year, but more importantly, violent acts against our employees and customers are also on the rise. In 2019, $68.9 billion worth of products were stolen from retailers in the USA, so our partnership with Colorado law enforcement is crucial in fighting these rings of criminals,” Colorado Retail Council President Chris Howes said.
“Over the last several years the Boulder Police Department has seen a proliferation of stolen merchandise sold at online marketplaces like Facebook Marketplace, Amazon, eBay, OfferUp, and others,” Boulder Police Chief Maris Herold said. “Despite the investigative work and resources allocated to understand these activities, substantial hurdles exist for local police departments analyzing these crimes. We support the new law and are glad to see requirements compelling online marketplaces to document buyer and seller information more closely.”
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