Minnesota lawmakers propose bill to tackle organized retail crime

Lawmakers and retail groups joined together at the Minnesota State Capitol on Monday to push for the passage of bills to take on organized retail theft.

Advocates for the law say Minnesota would join four other states that define organized retail crime as a separate violation of the law.

"There's a reality across the country and in Minnesota that there's a different type of enterprise out there," explained Bruce Nustad, the president of the Minnesota Retailers Association. "A retail theft enterprise that is plaguing our retailers, impacting our consumers in the form of high prices. It's touching our workers in terms of safety; it's touching our consumers in terms of safety." 

Under the new law, someone convicted of organized retail theft would face up to 15 years behind bars, with a sliding scale based on the value of the items stolen.

"The problem has gotten worse over the last several years," said Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park). "It's clearly become well-organized; smaller groups, larger groups. The stuff that gets taken gets moved very quickly; the channels are in operation. A lot of it goes out of state."

Minnesota saw a rash of thefts in November 2021, as groups of people would raid big box stores, like Best Buy, en masse. A group that was charged with multiple thefts in Ramsey County was ultimately charged with felony theft charges. Only one of the adult suspects in that case has been sentenced, receiving a stayed sentence with an opportunity for the charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor if she completes probation without issue.

The bill is still awaiting hearings in the House and Senate.