New task force formed to combat organized retail crime in Conn.

Connecticut

WEST HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut has formed a task force charged with combating the growing problem of organized robberies at brick-and-mortar retailers, Gov. Ned Lamont and Attorney General William Tong announced Wednesday.

The national issue involves smash-and-grab thefts in which large quantities of relatively inexpensive goods are stolen and then resold online.

Tong said this is far more than run-of-the-mill shoplifting and involves high-level criminal bosses sending crews out to rob the stores.

“We’re talking about organized crime rings that account for almost $70 billion in retail losses across the country,” Tong said. “In Connecticut, that costs us an estimated more than 8,000 jobs and $169 million in lost revenue.”

The task force will investigate robberies in an attempt to identify the organizations behind them and prevent similar thefts.

Thomas Moriarty, general counsel for CVS, said his company has seen an over 300% increase in such thefts since the onset of the pandemic.

“This is a two-headed monster,” Moriarty said. “It is the organized retail crime element of this, but it is also the online retailers and the ease with which these criminals can resell their stolen wares. It impacts each consumer in this state because ultimately, the costs associated with this are borne by all of us, not just single actors.”

Lamont said he’s working with governors in other states and also reaching out to online retailers, like Amazon, Facebook, and eBay, asking them to do more to keep stolen goods off of their sites.

“No more selling anonymously, getting the tax ID number, finding the information we need to track down who is doing this, so we can deal with this on the supply side and demand side,” the governor said. “We want to go after the big fish.”

One of these crime sprees happened in Oxford in November. Law enforcement officials say if you see this happen, don’t intervene, just call authorities.

The task force will include representatives from Tong’s office, the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, local law enforcement, consumer protection officials, and officials from large retailers such as CVS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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