A Chicago woman is charged with stealing more than $17,000 in goods from a Neiman Marcus location at Oakbrook Center in Oak Brook, Ill. in what is yet another instance of theft in a major metropolitan-area retail store.
Bail was set Sunday at $50,000 for Terri Collins, 21, who lives on the 100 block of Chicago’s West 110th Street, according to a news release from the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office.
Collins has been charged with one count of burglary—considered a “Class 2” felony in Illinois that could lead to a sentencing of three-to-seven years in prison—and one count of retail theft, a “Class 3” felony that comes with a potential sentence of five-to-10 years and fines of up to $25,000.
On Feb. 5, Collins, along with several other unidentified individuals, allegedly entered the store and met up with two males already on site. They went directly to the coat section where they allegedly cut the security wires off numerous Moncler coats and ran toward the store’s exit.
Upon their attempts to leave the store, a loss prevention officer knocked the items out of Collins’ hands, including the coats and a pair of wire cutters. Collins was detained at the scene while the other individuals were able to flee prior to the arrival of the Oak Brook Police Department. Additional coats were found outside the store.
“Smash-and-grab thefts involving multiple individuals are not a crime of opportunity. They are well organized by those who resort to violence and sheer numbers to commit their crimes,” DuPage County state’s attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement. “The allegations that this defendant, along with several others, entered a retail store in the middle of the afternoon intent on stealing merchandise will not be tolerated in DuPage County and will be met with the full force of the law. As I have said many times before, public safety is our top priority in DuPage County, and anyone who commits this type of violent forcible felony will be caught, prosecuted and, if found guilty, face significant consequences.”
Berlin commended the loss prevention officer at Neiman Marcus for his “outstanding” efforts in apprehending and detaining Collins before the police’s arrival.
The Oakbrook Center has been a recent magnet for burglaries. On Nov. 17, a group of 14 people rushed into the shopping center’s Louis Vuitton store and stole more than $120,000 worth of items. Two more smash-and-grab incidents occurred at a Nordstrom in the mall on Dec. 6. The trend continued for the third month in a row on Jan. 14, when three men entered the complex’s Burberry store and stole merchandise worth more than $23,000. The police investigations in all three cases remain ongoing.
“This type of activity is reprehensible and places everyone at increased risk,” said Oak Brook interim chief of police John Krull. “The Oak Brook Police Department working in partnership with our retailers and the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office remain committed to providing a safe environment for all. These types of incidents will not be tolerated in Oak Brook or anywhere in DuPage County and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Collins’ next court appearance is scheduled for March 7 for arraignment in front of Judge Daniel Guerin.
Retail crime has been a growing concern for brick-and-mortar operators since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic amid societal changes such as new law enforcement and prosecution policies in many cities and the shift to digital spending. In the case of the latter, thieves may feel incentivized to make a quick sale of stolen items online.
In recent months, significant retail thefts have been reported throughout major cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles and Memphis, Tenn. among others. A series of smash-and-grab robberies swept California retailers such as Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Bloomingdales and Burberry across the Bay Area and L.A. ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. And a string of separate thefts of Nike products occurred in Memphis. While a DHL warehouse employee was arrested for stealing $60,000 of Nike products from the facility she worked at, two separate Hibbett Sports locations were the victim of burglaries where more than $40,000 worth of Nike goods were stolen.
Repeated incidents at Walgreens locations in San Francisco led the pharmacy giant to close five locations in the area in October, after shuttering 17 locations in the prior five years due to the rampant theft. The retailer’s regional vice president Jason Cunningham told city officials last May that stores in San Francisco face theft four times the average versus anywhere else.
And the crimes occurring don’t just come from outsiders. Earlier this month, a Saks Fifth Avenue store employee was arrested for defrauding the retailer’s Bar Harbour, Fla. location out of approximately $800,000 by illegally obtaining gift cards that he would use or sell.
More than two-thirds (69.4 percent) of retailers said the pandemic increased the overall risk for their organization, according to NRF’s 2021 National Retail Security Survey, with 50 percent specifically pointing to a rise in shoplifting.
Organized retail crime (ORC)—which Collins’ instance also falls under—has been a thorn in the side of retailers, with 56.9 percent saying it has gotten worse since March 2020. ORC, which typically involves more than one actor in a shoplifting scheme in a coordinated attempt to commit theft or fraud, now costs retailers an average of $700,000 per $1 billion in sales, according to NRF’s 2020 Organized Retail Crime Survey.
In the wake of the repeated instances of ORC and shoplifting, members of the Retail Industry Leadership Association (RILA), which includes CEOs from Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Foot Locker, VF Corp, Levi Strauss & Co., Target and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have been pushing congressional leaders to quickly pass the Integrity, Notification and Fairness in Online Retail Marketplaces (INFORM) Consumers Act.
The legislation would enhance consumer protection laws to keep shoppers from purchasing stolen goods online. In particular, the measures would be designed to make it harder for criminals to sell illicit products online by forcing websites to make sellers’ names and contact information available to shoppers.