Seattle, King County to crack down on thieves committing repeat retail thefts

KING COUNTY, Wash. — The Seattle City Attorney’s Office with the King County Prosecutor’s Office is cracking down on people who commit repeat retail thefts.

The news comes as the Seattle Police Department continues to conduct undercover operations to fight the rising problem, which is costing stores like Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Target lots of money.

Just last week, both offices discussed the issue of repeat retail thefts in Seattle and decided to combine some of their cases in the hopes of getting a full understanding of a person’s repeat offender’s criminal history.

The county prosecutor’s office told KIRO 7 that repeat retail offenders are being charged daily.

“To the folks that say what’s being done, we’re frustrated with it too. We don’t like seeing people rip off stores at Bartell’s and Walgreens. And you know, we don’t want businesses to leave Seattle, we have been working on this. We’ve been identifying these high-profile offenders for years. And now that we have this really excellent partnership with the city attorney’s office, people can be reassured that we’re going to keep paying attention,” said Casey McNerthney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

The county prosecutor’s office said cracking down on repeat retail offenders requires collaboration by everyone to catch thieves, such as a man who had been accused of committing numerous misdemeanors for stealing alcohol from a Target in the Seattle area.

Police said he would often steal from the same store twice a day.

Instead of being charged with a misdemeanor, that man was charged with second-degree organized retail theft, which is a felony.

“What’s frustrating is people can steal a cartload of items, five to six hundred dollars or more worth of goods, and that’s still a misdemeanor offense. But now, that we’re working with the city attorney’s office, even more closely than we have before, those cases are also being aggregated too,” McNerthney said.

Earlier this year, Seattle City Attorney Ann Davison announced the “High Utilizer Initiative,” which pulls together resources from several city and county agencies to keep repeat offenders in custody and get them the help they need.

The initiative has found that 118 people were responsible for more than 2,400 criminal cases in the past five years.

Critics have criticized Davison’s initiative as a recycled idea that does more harm than good, and supporters said the status quo continues to fail both victims and those arrested.

In the past several months, tens of thousands of dollars have been stolen off Seattle store shelves.

It is not just King County dealing with the problem. It is happening in other counties like Snohomish, where a person who was stealing clothes from a Lynnwood Nordstrom, punched a security guard while making their escape with $800 worth of stolen merchandise.