This past week, Attorney General Bob Ferguson brought a diverse group together to participate in his first organized retail crime (ORC) task force meeting. Well over 100 vetted participants joined in, including local, state, and federal law enforcement, city, county, and state officials, retail loss prevention officers, owners of small and medium-sized businesses, ORC association leadership, online sales platform, union, and bank representatives, and the WR team. The media was not granted access to the closed-door meeting due to the likely disclosure of details relating to ongoing investigations.
Following opening remarks by Ferguson, participants shared their concerns relating to ORC and customer and employee safety. Additional discussions focused on specific steps to improve coordination between law enforcement and businesses and suggestions on how the task force can work together to affect meaningful change.
WR has taken a multi-pronged approach to address the serious impacts of retail theft and organized retail crime:
- Passage of an online marketplace transparency bill such as INFORM Act (H.R. 5502, S.936 or HB 1614 / SB 5533)
- Coordination with the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Association (WASORCA) to increase communication among national, state, and local law enforcement agencies and loss prevention officers
- Engaging with and supporting the efforts of the Washington State Organized Retail Crime Task Force
- Passing laws to support and fund law enforcement, enabling officers to do their jobs effectively by providing the tools to deter and apprehend criminals
- Telling the story of how retail theft impacts retail employees, customers, and retailers of all types and sizes
- Providing resources for small and mid-sized retailers on how to prepare, prevent, protect, and navigate post-crime
Nicole Lawson, Deputy Assistant Prosecutor for King County, walked the group through specific steps retailers can take to help ensure successful prosecutions. Lawson said that to strengthen a case, prosecutors need surveillance footage, proof of the dollar value of goods stolen, and notice of trespass, which would escalate a theft to Burglary in the Second Degree.
The next task force meeting will be convened in November of this year, and WR will be actively engaged on this issue during the interim.