Investigators alert pawnshops about retail theft fencing

Nov 13, 2019
Written by Mark Johnson, Senior Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs

Retail security personnel are focusing on pawnshops as accessories for retail thieves to derive illicit income.

Law enforcement recently broke up a multi-million dollar Auburn operation in which thieves were trying to sell merchandise stolen from retailers. It was the subject of last week’s meeting of The Washington State Organized Retail Crime Alliance (WSORCA) Board of Directors. WR chairs the Government Affairs Committee.

After a retail theft crime ring makes a theft, members often bring the goods to a pawn shop and try to sell them for a fraction of the true value. Most pawnshops deny these obviously stolen goods and send the thieves away before reporting the incident to local authorities. For example, when a thief comes into a shop with three identical cordless power saws, still in the original boxes and with the security wrap still on, it is a red flag that they are likely stolen.

However, I learned, thieves are continually getting more sophisticated. They are disguising the stolen goods and bringing them in with other non-stolen goods, and trying to make a sale. Police, prosecutors and retail loss prevention officers are working together to ensure pawn shops are not being taken advantage of and have the tools and laws in place to thwart thieves’ efforts.

The Retail Crime Alliance is reaching out to elected officials to educate them on the growing problem and to work collaboratively on needed changes in local and state regulations.

Washington State suffered more than $900 million in product theft in 2018. This leads to higher prices for consumer goods and fewer tax revenues generated for state and local governments.