‘Surprised they’re still in business’: Array of items at local Targets now locked behind cases

SEATTLE — Target shoppers say they’re getting frustrated while trying to fill up their carts with things like toothpaste and razors.

The company is locking up more items to help mitigate shoplifting.

The location by Pike Place Market is one of three Seattle Targets that made a rather dubious list a few months ago.

A city audit published in July collected data on city shoplifting in 2022. The Targets at Pike Place, Northgate, and Westwood Village are among the top ten stores that Seattle Police responded to for shoplifting calls last year.

Local shoppers told KIRO 7 the new security measures turned what should be a quick errand into a real-life game of Where’s Waldo, trying to find Target employees that can unlock the items on their shopping lists.

“What can you do, if you don’t do that, people are going to steal it,” said shopper Mickey Dupuy.

Dupuy is referencing the new glass cases that line Target shelves, keeping regular over-the-counter medicines and toiletries behind lock and key.

“It doesn’t make me feel super safe either thinking all these things are locked up like why, what is the reason? It doesn’t make it a fun, happy shopping experience,” said Sydney Burgmann, another Target shopper.

A Target spokesperson sent the following statement in response to KIRO 7′s inquiry regarding the new security cases.

“Theft and organized retail crime are urgent issues that are increasingly impacting the team and guests at Target and other retailers. The problem affects all of us, limiting product availability, creating a less convenient shopping experience, and putting our team and guests in harm’s way. Our multi-layered approach to combatting theft includes in-store technology, training for store leaders and security team members, and partnerships with law enforcement agencies as well as retail trade associations. On a limited basis, we employ theft-deterrent merchandising strategies, such as locking cases, for categories that are prone to theft. We are also working with legislators and industry partners to advocate for public policy solutions to combat theft and organized retail crime.”

“I’m surprised they’re still in business. I’m surprised they didn’t do it a long time ago,” said Dupuy.

He also often sees people walking out of the door with stolen goods to sell them on the corner right outside.

“Everything, especially laundry detergent, paper towels stuff like that, deodorant, razorblades, everything. They look for things like that because they get good deals with the way prices are in the stores. You can buy laundry detergent for $5 on the street,” said Dupuy.

Target isn’t the only store making changes to mitigate shoplifting either. Big chains like Home Depot and Lowes are also keeping items sealed. Fred Meyer has people checking receipts as customers leave.

When asked about that new security measure, the company spokesperson sent the following message.

“At Fred Meyer, we are committed to the communities we serve and providing equitable access to fresh food and essentials. Safety is one of our core values and it guides everything we do,” said member Mark Johnson “We very recently deployed some added safety measures and although it is still early, we have seen a decline in theft and an increase in positive feedback from our associates and customers.”

Many people like Mark Johnson with the State Retail Theft Association are disheartened by the change.

“It’s sad they have to take such extreme measures to protect the product. They know this inconveniences the law-abiding customers, it takes more staffing it costs more money,” Johnson said.

Johnson says a lot of the shoplifting incidents are part of a bigger organized crime network. A vulnerable person with an addiction or mental health struggles is enlisted to steal. Those items are then flipped to make money for the bigger, sometimes international criminal organization.

“It is so much more lucrative and safer to steal from retailers and resell it to monetize your criminal activities than it is to rob from a bank,” Johnson said. “Our midsized and smaller retailers don’t have the staff, the sophistication, the resources to really protect themselves.”

The Seattle audit mentioned above also found that stolen merchandise in 2022 cost the state $2.7 billion.

In part, this is why the Retail Industry Association picked the Seattle-King County area for the Vibrance Community pilot program.

The new program plans to help combat shoplifting and results will be shared nationwide. One new aspect is victims of retail theft won’t have to make online reports. Instead, they’ll be able to have the option to make a video report to a dispatcher or officer.

“Police officers will get more information than if someone’s just typing in on a computer screen,” said Johnson.

A meeting for that pilot program is being planned for the end of the month.

Johnson says that in this coming legislative session, the Washington Retail Association plans to introduce a bill to allow police to pursue retail theft suspects.