MILWAUKEE - Organized retail thefts are increasing across Wisconsin, and law enforcement and businesses are fed up – working together to stop the crime.
"We understand the severity of what’s going on right now across our country," said Grafton Police Chief Jeff Caponera.
Law enforcement officers from all over southeastern Wisconsin are sitting down with retailers in an effort to combat crime. Officers say retail thefts have been on the rise for some time.
"A lot of our crime in the village is retail theft related," Caponera said.
For the first time, the Wisconsin Organized Retail Crime Association (WIORCA) hosted a conference Wednesday at the Kohl's Innovation Center. It allowed police and retailers to network, sharing stories and knowledge about thefts.
Surveillance of retail theft in progress
"Having all of us together talking about this, sharing our ideas, sharing our struggles, will hopefully get us all together and put some faces to the names, so we can reach out and know who to talk to when we need help," said Caponera.
All parties hope to create a safer environment for employees and customers. They hope to enact stricter laws – like a statute specific to organized retail crimes.
"In general, what we’re trying to do is try to stiffen the penalties in terms of felony thresholds and the level of which it’s prosecuted," said Telly Knetter, WIORCA president.
Knetter said theft costs retailers $720,000 per every $1 billion in sales – a statistic the group hopes to change.
"I want the criminals to know we’re banning together because we’re tired of dealing with this, and we’re going to do what we need to do to eliminate it," Caponera said.
Officials said the increase in organized retail thefts is not just a Wisconsin issue, but happening nationwide.