The Difference Between Theft and Robbery; Why Cardinal News Articles Suggest Flash Mob Robbery Classification for Groups Involved in Thefts

Who knows the difference between theft and robbery committed by offenders? Robbery is a more serious crime because it is considered theft by the threat of force, and probably involves a more malicious and dangerous offender. Conviction can result in greater punishment. There’s a reason Cardinal News suggests “Flash Mob Robbery” in the title and articles about organized retail thefts that involve a mob — and it doesn’t have to do with sensationalism or exaggeration.

S.P. on Facebook yesterday commented about a Cardinal News article (Theft Over $6800, Possible Flash Mob Robbery at T-Mobile on Arlington Heights Rd, Arlington Heights) about a recent retail theft involving four offenders that occurred at T-Mobile. Disagreeing with the use of the phrase “Flash Mob Robbery” S.P. said, “A flash mob is one that runs in, grabs merchandise and runs out. This sounds like a simple robbery by multiple persons who went in and decided what to take. Flash mobs do not conceal they grab and go!”

Here is the CARDINAL NEWS reply to S.P., which includes some important information …

Not sure where you are getting your information that concealment is a factor that rules out Flash Mob Robbery, but according to Loss Prevention Magazine, concealing large amounts of merchandise is considered a factor involved in Flash Mob Robbery. However, the stronger factor in positively defining Flash Mob Robbery is the safety in numbers of the offenders and their associated implied threat.

Chances are that the four offenders outnumbered the number of T-Mobile store personnel late on a Sunday afternoon, and the store personnel likely felt threatened. According to the Loss Prevention Magazine article cited at the end of this comment, “robbery is simply ‘theft by force,’ which is a felony in all states. By definition, ‘force’ could be a weapon of some kind, a physical assault, or a ‘threat that instills an imminent fear in someone.’ In essence, imminent fear is what is created when a large group of people enter a retail store and start loading up on merchandise. Individuals working in the store would certainly think that if they tried to interfere in this situation, these thieves would band together to stop that interference, therefore creating that imminent fear. Amending state robbery laws in this way would make the offense a robbery and a felony for any participant of a flash mob involved in that retail theft. Since robbery is considered a violent crime, it would also help ensure law enforcement involvement.”

You claim this is a “simple robbery” but what is the “theft by force” to make it a robbery by your claim? It’s obvious that the threat of force is the number of offenders that makes it a robbery because the Arlington Heights Police Department didn’t mention that any weapon was displayed or implied. If you meant to state it is a “simple theft,” that doesn’t make any sense considering the high value loss amount in this crime and threat by force of a number of offenders. It’s preposterous that anyone would purposely or inadvertently support the side of the offenders, who would be encouraged to know that their punishment would be the lesser sentencing for theft compared to robbery.

Please see: LOSS PREVENTION MAGAZINE Flash Mob Robbery and the Retail Threat by Frank Muscato February 22, 2018

As citizens concerned for safety and a thriving business community, we should push police and prosecutors to charge offenders of organized retail theft that includes mob action with felony robbery instead of the lesser charges of misdemeanor theft or felony theft. Note, police are often limited by charges that are vetted for approval by the State’s Attorney’s Office.

The threat of multiple offenders grabbing, concealing, carrying and leaving with thousands of dollars of merchandise has the risk of personal injury to store personnel and customers. According to a National Retail Federation survey, “similar to 2017, roughly half (48.5%) of survey respondents said Organized Retail Crime gangs are exhibiting more aggression than they did the previous year. About 45% believe it is the same as last year.”

Items Commonly Stolen
Designer Clothes
Laundry Detergent
Infant Formula
Designer Handbags
Denim Pants
High-end Liquor
Teeth Whitening Strips
Cell Phones

Additionally, according to a 2018 survey by the National Retail Federation, Organized Retail Crime of all types cost retailers $777,877 per $1 billion in sales — an all-time survey high.

In some states, the felony theft threshold has increased — raising the dollar amount of theft before the crime is categorized as more serious than a misdemeanor fine. In states where the felony threshold has increased, the majority of retailers report an increase in the average Organize Retail Crime case value. Criminals understand the new threshold and have increased their thefts to steal merchandise values just below the threshold. Sometimes they carry calculators to be certain they stay below the threshold.

Proponents of the higher threshold say that prison is an ineffective and expensive method of dealing with nonviolent offenders — costing states over $20,000 per year to keep an inmate in jail. Simple incarceration doesn’t help the victims, and proponents of the higher threshold seek alternative reforms, such as restorative justice, which compensates victims for their losses. Retailers oppose the higher threshold.

Organized retail crime is also widespread for today’s retailers, with over nine in 10 respondents saying they have encountered Organized Retail Crime in the last 12 months. Most retailers have a safety first “do nothing” policy that prohibits employees or staff confrontation with offenders.

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