Recent shocking “Flash Mob Robberies” in neighboring states are highlighting Washington state’s unique organized retail crime bill, which cracks down on this behavior. The bill passed in 2017. A flash mob robbery is when multiple thieves organize by electronic means to steal from a store at a pre-determined time. Retail theft is over $1 billion in Washington state.
Former Senator Mike Carrell (R-28 Lakewood) introduced a bill to increase the penalties for these crimes and send a message to would-be flash mob robbery organizers and participants. Senator Carrell, unfortunately, died in office before the bill passed. His successor Senator Steve O’Ban (R-28 Tacoma), picked up the torch and successfully passed the nation’s first flash mob robbery bill in 2017 – Senate Bill 5632 – Chapter 329 L-17.
The new law, which went into effect July 23, 2017, says a person can be charged with organized retail theft if the person “commits theft of property with a cumulative value of at least $750 from a mercantile establishment with no less than six accomplices and the person makes or sends at least one electronic communication seeking participation in the theft in the course of planning or commission of the theft.”
When this type of organized retail theft occurs, thefts committed by the principal and accomplices may be aggregated into one count, and the value of all the property must be the value considered in determining the degree of organized retail theft involved. Organized retail theft in the second degree is a Class C felony.
Let this be a warning to would-be “flash mob robbers” —you will be caught, and you will be held to a higher level of crime.