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AG Miyares sets up new work group to investigate organized retail crime

Virginia Candidate Forum
Cliff Owen
Miyares says organized retail theft harms Virginia businesses.

Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares is convening a work group to take a look at organized retail crime in Virginia, a problem he says is harming businesses across the Commonwealth.

"We saw in Fairfax last month, over 20,000 eyeglasses frames were stolen just in Fairfax," he says. "Arlington detectives recovered over 89,000 stolen goods from just T.J. Maxx alone."

Statistics on organized retail crime are hard to come by. Industry groups say it's a problem, but criminal justice advocates say there's no independent data to back that up. They say discussion of the issue tends to blur together simple shoplifting, organized theft and violent smash-and-grab operations, which are all different crimes.

Brad Haywood at Justice Forward Virginia worries that the work group is a pretext for harsh, new laws.

"This is just AG Miyares just latching on to the latest aspect of the crime wave hysteria," Haywood says. "And I don't think there's any basis in fact for the claim that organized shoplifting has suddenly become some massive social problem that requires its own work group. It just seems to be complete fantasy."

Documenting the scope of the problem will be one of the tasks before the new work group, which is expected to take a look at tracking and recording organized retail crime as part of its efforts.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.