With retail thefts on the rise, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said it is time to take a stronger approach.
On Thursday, Ferguson unveiled a new task force to crack down on organized crime that is costing the state billions.
While Seattle retailers have faced the brunt of the toxic trend, grocery stores in the state have been hit the hardest, and Ferguson acknowledged that stores and local law enforcement need help.
Some local retailers have been taking extreme measures to prevent theft. A Seattle QFC created a plexiglass maze to prevent shoplifters from exiting quickly.
KIRO 7 recently reported about a security guard who was seen on camera tackling a suspected thief.
And while some extreme measures could help cut down on small thefts, Ferguson said it is no match for organized crime rings, which sometimes involve dozens of individuals banding together to pull off multiple store heists.
“No one retail store, no one prosecutor, no one attorney general, no one U.S. attorney can solve the problem. It’s just way too big,” said Ferguson.
Last year, organized retail crime cost the state $2.7 billion, which is why Ferguson created the Organized Retail Crime Task Force — a collaborative effort with law enforcement agencies across multiple jurisdictions.
“(We’re working) to bring our resources together, to share information (and) to work together to address what really is a huge, huge challenge,” Ferguson said.
Organized crime could look like three men coordinating an early morning break-in, or it could occur on a smaller scale, like at the downtown Seattle Target, where police arrested a man after he stole alcohol 22 times over the course of a few days.
However, one of the biggest concerns of the task force is stolen baby formula, which is then resold on secondary sites like Amazon and becomes a risk for parents.
“That means that parents who unwittingly buy stolen formula on the secondary market may be putting their babies at significant risk if the thieves, for example, fail to store the product at the appropriate temperatures, or if the thieves manipulated the packaging, such as exchanging the expiration date,” Ferguson said.
He said the task force hopes to have an immediate impact statewide.
“We’re all stepping up to address what really is a true crisis in our state (and) ... has significant implications for businesses and for the people of our state,” said Ferguson.
While you might think that retail theft does not impact a consumer, it does. A rise in theft means a rise in prices.
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