Retail theft is a major cause for concern, but now a new federal task force has been formed to combat organized retail crime in South Florida.
“We are pleased to announce the formation of the Homeland Security Investigations-led South Florida Organized Retail Crime Task Force,” said Alysa D. Erichs, the Miami special agent in charge for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, at a news conference Tuesday.
The task force is bringing together the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Broward Sheriff’s Office, Miami-Dade Police Department, Doral Police Department and the National Retail Federation.
Their job is to put a stop to criminal organizations that steal millions of dollars of merchandise from local businesses and then sell the merchandise at flea markets over the Internet or export it illegally out of the country.
“Well, Miami once again is among the top 10 cities along with Los Angeles, New York and Chicago for organized retail crime activity,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida.
Because of that criminal activity, authorities said, businesses are out hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, which results in employment cuts and higher prices to the consumer. The loss of tax revenue to the state results in less funding for the state’s needs.
There are also health and safety issues for certain merchandise that is not being handled or stored properly.
“And you have no idea how whether it’s been refrigerated, you have no idea how it’s been handled, whether it’s been treated, whether the medication or the formula is expired. Just imagine the kind of dangers you are exposing yourself to because of this type of crime,” Ferrer said.
Officials said there has also been an increase in violence because of organized retail crime.
But the task force says that by working together, it will help keep South Florida safer.
“So by looking at the caliber of the agencies that are here, I know that we are off to an incredible solid start,” Ferrer said.