The Village of Elmwood Park has added retail theft as an ordinance violation, responding to a recent Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office directive that it won’t prosecute those cases at lower levels.
Elmwood Park trustees voted unanimously Aug. 21, amending the village code to prohibit retail theft.
In December of last year, newly elected State’s Attorney Kim Foxx announced that her office was raising the bar for charging shoplifters with a felony crime. Prosecutors were told that retail theft charges would remain a misdemeanor unless the value of stolen goods exceeded $1,000 or the alleged shoplifter had 10 prior felony convictions, the Tribune reported at the time.
Elmwood Park officials moved forward with the change, stating “the corporate authorities of the village deem it to be in the best interests and welfare of the public to prohibit retail theft and to continue to prosecute violations.”
The ordinance change defined different actions that constitute retail theft and set the penalty at a cost not to exceed $750.
Elmwood Park Police Cmdr. Dave Busch, who did research into the ordinance change, said the ability to issue an ordinance should free up police to do more to serve the community — as opposed to tying up two officers inside the building on a retail theft case — “fingerprinting, photographing, writing up police reports, calling the state’s attorney when the state’s attorney is basically going to say, sorry it doesn’t meet the criteria.”
“It’s good for us, as far as we’re citing them,” he said. “These businesses say we have to draw a line in the sand, otherwise we’ll have a line of people coming in and stealing from us.”
Once the ordinance is in place, shoplifters will be given a ticket and will appear at a village court hearing and possibly face a fine.
“It’s a win-win,” he said.