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Senate approves Runestad bill to prosecute organized retail crime bosses under the state’s racketeering laws

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved Sen. Jim Runestad’s legislation to penalize organized retail crime under the state’s racketeering statute.

“Organized retail crime is a growing menace that is creating havoc across the country,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We see this terrible trend more and more in the news — freight train tracks littered with ransacked packages and brazen mobs bursting into stores on grab-and-go raids. Sadly, retail theft has grown into a $30 billion industry in America.

“But even more unfortunate is how the bad people who benefit from this industry prey on vulnerable youth and other susceptible members of our communities — coercing at-risk kids and people with drug addictions and forcing them to commit these crimes as shields to protect themselves. We need stronger penalties in place to go after the real bad guys — these depraved retail crime bosses.”

Michigan’s Organized Retail Crime Act, which was passed in 2012, prescribed felony sentencing for organizing, supervising, financing or assisting another person in committing organized retail crime. Senate Bill 691 would add similar language to the state’s racketeering penal code in order to provide more legal leverage against criminals at the top of these efforts.

“While these crimes are a violation of the Organized Retail Crime Act, these criminals still cannot be charged under Michigan’s racketeering statute. My bill simply seeks to fix that oversight from 2012 and give the state more power to prosecute those who are behind these crime rings to the fullest extent of the law,” Runestad said. “It is also my hope that this bill will make a difference by helping save youth and other vulnerable individuals from falling victim to the career criminals who seek to exploit them and benefit from these crimes.”

SB 691 is supported by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan State Police, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, and Michigan Retailers Association. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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