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Retail CEOs Ask Congress for Help amid Wave of Smash-and-Grab Thefts

San Francisco Police at a looted Louis Vuitton store in Union Square, November 19, 2021. (KPIX CBS SF Bay Area/via YouTube)

A group of 20 CEOS from large retail companies including The Home Depot, Target, and Best Buy sent a letter to Congress on Thursday urging lawmakers to pass legislation to make it more difficult for thieves or scammers to resell stolen goods amid a recent crime wave.

The letter calls on Congress to pass the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) for Consumers Act, which would require platforms to verify the identities of sellers. 

“Leading retailers are concerned about the growing impact organized retail crime is having on the communities we proudly serve,” said the letter spearheaded by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

The letter, which was was signed by leaders from retail giants including Nordstrom, DICK’S Sporting Goods, Dollar General Corporation, CVS Health, and Ulta Beauty, expressed support for the INFORM Consumers Act, calling it “important legislation” that “will modernize our consumer protection laws to safeguard families and communities from the sale of illicit products.”

The group urged the legislation’s quick passage, adding that “criminals are capitalizing on the anonymity of the Internet and the failure of certain marketplaces to verify their sellers,” which makes “businesses a target for increasing theft” and impacts “legitimate businesses who are forced to compete against unscrupulous sellers.”

“There is no simple answer to stopping organized retail crime or the sale of counterfeits — but key to stemming the tide of these growing problems is transparency,” RILA adds, arguing that a lack of transparency on some third-party marketplaces has “allowed criminal activity to fester.”

The letter comes as the National Retail Federation found that 69 percent of retailers reported an increase in organized retail crime in 2021.

California has been hit particularly hard by a wave of smash-and-grab burglaries in recent weeks.

Last week, Los Angeles police chief Michel Moore faulted California’s “zero bail” policy for returning 14 suspected smash-and-grab looters back to the streets.

“All the suspects taken into custody are out of custody, either as a result of one juvenile, or the others as a result of bailing out or zero-bail criteria,” Moore said of 14 suspects arrested in connection with eleven robberies late last month that cost businesses some $338,000 in stolen merchandise and more than $40,000 in property damage.

The San Francisco Bay Area has also been plagued by looting in recent weeks; San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin announced felony charges against nine suspects connected with the robberies in late November.

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