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Database aims to thwart retail theft rings before they organize here

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Atty. Gen. Ashley Moody is hoping that a new interactive database will help Florida retailers stay steps ahead of so-called “smash-and-grab” theft mobs before they become organized in Florida.

Called the TREUTH Florida Organized Retail Crime Exchange (T-FORCE), the database will let retailers share information about theft trends, suspects and organized theft rings already operating in the state with each other and with law enforcement agencies and prosecutors statewide. It will also help retailers share information about the kinds of items that have been stolen, and pinpoint the geographic location where the thefts have taken place.

Moody said that the information exchange is intended to help Florida retailers be collectively proactive against high-profile “smash-and -grab” thefts that are taking place at neighborhood and high-end stores in Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

“We are seeing lawlessness and out-of-control mobs preying on businesses and consumers in major cities outside of Florida, and we will not allow these crime sprees to harm Floridians or our retailers,” she said. “While we have done a good job of catching and prosecuting major retail theft rings in Florida, the threat is growing, and we must evolve with it.”

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Florida Retail Federation Operated along with the Attorney General’s Office will operate the database which is available by invitation to retailers and law enforcement agencies that complete specialized training.

In addition to the database, Moody announced the launch of the FORCE task force. Composed of law enforcement personnel, prosecutors and retailers, the group will meet regularly to discuss trends, share criminal intelligence and coordinate investigations.

Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley said that the database and the task force are welcome tools for retailers.

“Organized retail crime continues to pose a serious threat to retailers, with a significant increase in activity over the past year,” Shalley said. “FORCE will play a key role in facilitating the collaboration between retail and law enforcement to protect Florida retailers, prevent crime and hold criminals accountable.”

According to the National Retail Federation, organized retail theft costs businesses in Florida and across the U.S. an estimated $30 billion annually. Moody said that since taking office in 2019, her agency’s Office of Statewide Prosecution (OSP) has filed nearly 60 cases involving more than 250 individuals suspected of organized retail theft or crimes related to organized retail theft.

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