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Retailers want to fight smash and grab thieves by targeting online resellers of stolen stuff

Proposed legislation in Virginia, Maryland and 22 other states would force platforms like Amazon to collect information verifying the legitimacy of sellers

STERLING, Va. — Virginia, Maryland and at least 22 other states are aiming to slow down a disturbing trend of organized "grab and go" robberies by making it more difficult for thieves to sell stolen goods on major shopping platforms like Amazon, according to the Virginia Retail Federation which is pushing the legislation in the commonwealth.

This is happening as a Loudoun County Sheriffs’ deputy is recovering after allegedly being run down by a 16-year-old driving a getaway car in Sterling on January 29.

Retail stores throughout the region say they are under assault from so-called “grab and go” organized theft rings according to the National Retail Federation which reports $700,000 out of every $1 billion in sales is lost to organized theft.

Saturday in Sterling, there was a rare win for law enforcement, who interrupted a robbery at a Target in Dulles 28 Center, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff's department. Two teenage suspects were arrested and charged along with a 16-year-old who’s accused of driving a getaway car that deputies said hit and injured an officer.

Credit: wusa9
Ahmed Sawadogo, 19, Naby Doukoure, 18, and a 16-year-old juvenile are charged after alleged robberies at Target stores in Northern Virginia. A Loudoun County Sheriff's deputy was injured during the arrests, authorities said.

Investigators say the trio of alleged thieves had just hit another Target in Fairfax County. Police said store staff in Sterling were on the lookout after being warned by the store in Chantilly.

The thieves had come from New York to execute a crime spree in Northern Virginia, according to police.

Retailers cheered the arrests but called the successful response by police rare.

In addition, they noted in-store employees are instructed for safety’s sake not to engage in physical confrontations to catch suspects, making it easy for them to escape. As a result, retailers are hoping legislators will help them go on offense against people who are later selling the stolen goods online.

Bills now under consideration in Virginia would force platforms like Amazon and Esty to collect identifying information like tax ID numbers and bank account information to verify the legitimacy of frequent sellers before allowing them to list items.

Maryland is considering similar legislation.

“Our hope is that it will be a deterrent for these organized retail crime rings to stop doing this and realize that it's not going to be so easy anymore to sell on the markets if we can get this through Virginia,” said Jodi Roth of the Virginia Retail Federation.

The bills have not received final votes in Virginia or Maryland.

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