Task force bill takes on flash mob robberies in Texas

Flash mob thefts are typically large scale, smash and grab attacks on retail stores. According to the FBI, those crimes have recently increased.

Violent crime at convenience stores has also doubled over the past five years, according to FBI data.

"This is not just petty shoplifting. That's not what we're talking about here," said State Representative Chris Turner, (D) Arlington.

Flash mobs, and smaller theft operations, according to Turner, are getting bolder and increasing in Texas.

"Mom-and-pop businesses, small businesses cannot afford it. And whether it's a small business or a large business ultimately cost consumers more because when there's theft, that causes prices to go up. So it costs all of us," said Rep. Turner.

In December 2021, video was recorded of shoppers at Barton Creek Square running for cover as a smash and grab incident took place. FOX 7 spoke to witnesses that night.

"That was probably the scariest part, not knowing where it was coming from," said a woman who was at the mall during the 2021 incident.

It's believed many of the large scale attacks that have happened across the country are planned by gangs. Retailers, in a recent survey, reported the incidents have resulted in an increase in attacks on store employees.

"We actually tried to stop them, close the front entrance, and they put the items up at them like they were going to hurt them," said a store employee at a home improvement store.

HB 1826, filed by Turner, would create special task force to take on organized retail theft.

The bill requires the task force to:

  • Review laws and regulations addressing organized retail theft in other jurisdictions
  • Analyze the impact of organized retail theft on sales tax collection make recommendations regarding prevention programs, training and strategies.

"And so what we want to do is create a task force modeled on what several other states have done to bring together local law enforcement, state and federal law enforcement, as well as the retailers and the online marketplaces to better share information, identify who the bad actors are, and provide new tools to go after them," said Rep Turner.

The bill requires the task force to submit a report every two years. House members approved the legislation on its Second Reading and are expected to send the bill to the Senate on Thursday, April 27.

If it clears the upper chamber and is signed by Gov. Abbott, the task force report is to be made every two years and will have to be filed no later than Dec. 1, 2023.