Attorney General Bob Ferguson convened an Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Task Force earlier this year to improve coordination and collaboration among law enforcement agencies to address these multi-jurisdictional crimes.
More than 100 individuals attended the first Task Force meeting, including retailers, workers, small business owners, and state, local, and federal law enforcement. A consistent message at the meeting was the need for additional resources to address these sophisticated crimes. The second Task Force meeting was held yesterday with 144 in attendance, including retailers, law enforcement, loss prevention officers, business owners, and prosecuting attorneys. Topics of discussion included employee safety, best practices for online sales platforms, and the free resources provided on the WR website.
This week, Ferguson announced that he is seeking funding to hire a 10-person unit, including prosecutors and investigators, to combat organized retail crime.
The ORC Unit will be able to assist with investigations — including coordinating them across multiple jurisdictions — and deploy resources where they are most needed. The unit will also be able to prosecute cases referred to the office by county prosecutors. Without such a referral, the Attorney General’s Office has no jurisdiction over criminal matters.
“Washington law enforcement agencies have limited resources to tackle these sophisticated crimes,” Ferguson said in his announcement. “A modest investment in a centralized statewide organized retail crimes unit will hold criminals accountable and deter crimes which cause significant economic harm to our state.”
“As the retail industry continues to recover from the pandemic, there has never been a more critical time in Washington state to address the growing impacts of organized retail crime on public safety and the safety of our customers and retail employees,” said Renée Sunde, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association. “Funding the unit is an important part of a multi-pronged approach to coordinate the efforts of state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers and policymakers at multiple agencies and levels of government.”