From left: Carl Kleinknecht, President of the Washington Organized Retail Crime Association; Alisha Shemwell, Kemper Development Company, Kent Wilson, Target; US Representative Kim Schrier (D-8); Renée Sunde, WR President & CEO, and Mark Johnson, WR Senior VP of Policy & Government Affairs.
The Target Store at Issaquah Commons was pleased to welcome Congressman Kim Shrier (WA-8) for a tour of their store. The store’s management team discussed the impact of Organized Retail Crime (ORC) on team members and the communities they serve.
Immediately following, the Congresswoman held an outdoor press conference to announce her co-sponsorship of HR 895 -The Combatting Organized Retail Crime Act.
Recent data from the Seattle City Auditor’s Office paints a concerning picture: over half of Washington’s retailers have seen a rise in theft, translating to a staggering $2.7 billion in losses statewide. “These crimes are not victimless,” emphasized WR President Renée Sunde. The ripple effects of ORC are felt deeply by retail workers, many of whom now fear for their safety at work.
WR has acknowledged the fact that no single solution will resolve these issues and tackling this growing crisis will require a multi-pronged approach. The association urged the legislature to approve $2.6 million to help fund an ORC Unit in the Office of the Attorney General to assist with investigations and prosecution across multiple jurisdictions.
We know that these crimes cross city, county state and national boundaries. The need for legislation at the federal level is the next critical step in helping to further coordinate resources and provide critical resources.
Congresswoman Schrier voiced her strong support for the Combating Organized Retail Crime Act. The bill proposes the establishment of a Coordination Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This center’s mission is to unite federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies with the private sector, creating a cohesive strategy against ORC.
Highlighting the broader implications of ORC, Schrier stated, “The proceeds from these thefts often support other illicit activities, including drug and human trafficking.”
Despite the alarming statistics, there has been progress. Issaquah’s Police Chief Schwan indicated that the city has witnessed a 15% reduction in shoplifting incidents over the past year. This positive trend is attributed to new community partnerships, proactive business groups and strong coordination with retailers.
As this bipartisan and bicameral bill progresses through the House Judiciary Committee, the consensus is clear: federal intervention is crucial. As Sunde succinctly stated, “Federal legislation is the next critical step.”
Several local news organizations covered the event, including KOMO4 and KING5.