Ashley Moody, Attorney General for the state of Florida, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the state.
Retail theft can be a serious problem throughout the country.
Moody said, “This is a very common and overwhelming problem in so many parts of our nation, that retailers are seeing record numbers in terms of theft of property. One estimate has up to 112 billion, some estimates show it going up 90% in one year. It’s really starting to become a problem for businesses so much that it is beginning to attract violence. So both retailers and others in the community are now saying there’s so much of this attracted and connected to violence and retail stores because of all of those things are having to close down their stores in so many parts of the nation. In New York they’ve lost Targets, in California they’ve lost Walgreens, of course, in Portland, and Chicago, they’re seeing stores closed down. These are often anchors for communities, people need to be able to go and get supplies to raise their families and live. That is a sign of a city or community in decline when your businesses do not feel secure or stable enough to stay open and they’re closing not because they haven’t been able to turn a profit but because they don’t feel like they can continue to operate and have the chance to make a profit because of crime. That’s what you’re seeing around the nation and that’s what we’re fighting against here in Florida.”
The Florida Attorney General’s office has created FORCE, Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange, where retailers and law enforcement across the state collaborate to try to report crimes that occur.
Moody said, “When you have organized retail theft, this isn’t just what you’re thinking about an individual in a community shoplifting from a store and no one would condone that and obviously that is illegal. But organized retail theft are these large scale organizations, I’ll call it the modern day mafia where you have the bosses that are controlling things and you have layers of a criminal enterprise down to boosters which are the professional thieves that are going into the retail stores stealing bulk items and selling them. Just to put it in perspective, we just took out took down one of these rings in South Florida. It involved 20 different retailers, nine different jurisdictions, dozens of people from the leader down to boosters and that is what we’ve seen and know of historically of these organized criminal organizations. It’s just taking a different look at how they’re obtaining their goods and selling them. Many times, it’s online now the stolen goods. So you have to bring charges that are commensurate with that. We have been charging racketeering charges against these folks, which meets the crime. What’s happening around the country and why it’s so out of control right now is you have jurisdictions where their executive leaders, and I’m going to say the mayor, or city council, or even a prosecutor, have come in and said, you know, we don’t like the system, the criminal justice system the way it is, and as opposed to trying to make meaningful changes that would still ensure safety and security for their people, they are going in and taking a wrecking ball, basically demolishing anything that has worked in the past, or that has over many, many hundreds of years have been developed to deal with crime, like cash bail, or not dismissing crimes that officers bring you. That is the reason why you’re seeing such rampant crime in these areas. Those that are arrested, don’t stay in jail long, they’re right back out doing the same things in many instances and you’ve got rogue prosecutors and mayors that don’t want to follow the law that the lawmakers and the people have given to them. They want their way to be the way that is followed in the criminal justice system, which is a complete usurping of the law. That’s why you’re seeing chaos because they’ve broken down the system. So in Florida, we’re trying to do the opposite. We want to make meaningful changes that are good for the system, and that we are improving, making sure we’re more efficient, making sure that we are focusing on violent repeat offenders that are just sowing chaos in communities. But you have to do that in a way that is still ensuring stability and security and that’s where everybody’s getting it wrong around the nation. In Florida, we’re on the right track. That’s why we have a 50 year low crime rate. That’s why you’re not seeing stores closing in our communities. That’s what you’re not seeing this rampant rampant theft everywhere, and people afraid to shop. So we’re real proud of that. I’ve been working on it since I got in office and I’ll continue to do so.”
How can people take part in FORCE?
Moody said, “Immediately, we determined that in order to make these cases and identify these large scale organizations, we had to have folks on the ground in the stores every day, talking to one another, number one, and then making sure that law enforcement had the best information available based on things that were occurring in stores. So we created this exchange with retailers and it has really changed the game. In some instances, we can tell you what stores they’re going to hit and what jurisdictions. It’s really become a major tool in our fight against retail fast. It’s a group of both retailers and law enforcement, state, local and county law enforcement working together. The larger retailers and even medium sized are invited to participate as we’re seeing the need around the state. But certainly if there’s a retailer that believes that they want to be involved and more engaged on this process, they can always call FDLE.”
Porch piracy is also an issue the Attorney General’s office works on.
Moody said, “I think this is a shocking statistic for most Americans when they hear it. Right before Christmas we kind of looked at the data and within the last three months, 17 million Americans had had a package stolen from their doorstep. A lot of this is because we have seen an evolution in the way people shop. Many people did a large amount of their Christmas shopping and holiday shopping online. As before where that point of sale may have been done in an actual retail establishment, you would have packed that up and taken that straight into your house, now that doesn’t end until it’s delivered and placed on your porch. We’re just seeing a rampant rise in what we’ll call porch piracy. But there are things that people can do to protect themselves, obviously, make sure that your neighborhood knows about this and to look out for one another and folks that are suspicious in your neighborhood. Schedule packages to be delivered when you are home, you can arrange for signature deliveries, there are ways that you can prevent this and be a little bit more in control of your packages. If you have a package stolen, don’t just call the retailer and then go from there. Please report that to law enforcement. If you have any evidence, report that to law enforcement. Taking that extra step, letting them know about your situation could save dozens of others from having the same thing happen to them. So I’ve been encouraging that as attorney general as well and that is making sure everyone is participating and feeling a part of protecting their own communities.”