Nevada proposal targets organized retail theft rings
Associated Press Writer
Retailers urged Nevada lawmakers on Friday to pass a bill that would crack down on organized retail theft rings that steal millions of dollars worth of merchandise and then repackage and resell it.
A report from the Retail Association of Nevada to the Senate Judiciary Committee states that the thefts result in an estimated $16 million in lost sales tax revenues each year and also create health hazards because stolen items often aren’t stored properly.
The perpetrators steal small items such as razor blades, batteries, drugs and baby food, take them to warehouses where they’re stripped of any identifying information, and then sell them on the Internet or at flea markets, panel members were told.
AB421 makes it a felony to participate in an organized retail theft ring, which is defined as three or more people who get together to commit a series of thefts against more than one retailer or more than one branch of a retail business.
Only a handful of states have passed similar legislation, but the retail association said all states with legislatures meeting this year are being lobbied to consider similar measures.
Walgreen Co., Safeway Inc. and Scolari’s Food and Drug Co. also are backing the proposal.
A trend in organized retail theft has appeared over the past few years, said Ken Lightfoot, director of loss prevention for Scolari’s. He added that Las Vegas was at one point among the top 10 places in the country targeted by such thieves.
Thefts dropped when authorities busted a crime ring based out of San Bernardino that would travel to Riverside, Barstow, Las Vegas, into Utah and even Idaho in organized rounds of thievery.
The group had warehouses and a distribution center where items were sorted and repackaged for resale on the Internet.
It’s been hard for authorities to crack down on those in charge because only small amounts are stolen at each store.
“If I grab the people who are doing this, we put the peons in jail, people who are trying to support drug habits or illegal immigrants. … The intent of this bill is so that we can go after the one who is organizing this, and funding this and reaping the financial rewards for it,” Lightfoot said.