Retail theft is becoming increasingly organized and aggressive, with criminals targeting businesses and individuals for profit. In response, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is adopting a new approach to tackle theft in the area.
Prosecuting attorney Leesa Manion has launched the Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division as part of her administration’s policy and practice changes. The division aims to be a resource for law enforcement and improve outcomes for challenging economic crime cases.
Organized retail theft has become a growing problem for businesses in the region. Manion emphasizes that the new division’s goal is to hold thieves accountable and protect the business community from harm, particularly small businesses that may be forced to close due to theft.
In February 2023, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed 69 theft or attempted theft charges, 16 of which were related to organized retail theft. Manion notes that by focusing on this type of crime and collaborating with other agencies, they have been able to file more organized retail theft cases.
“In 2022, we filed twice as many organized retail theft cases than we did in 2021. And it’s because we put a focus on that crime; it’s also because we were trading information with the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and others so that we could crack down on this crime in kind of a regional effort,” said Manion.
The Economic Crimes and Wage Theft Division will have a team of attorneys concentrating on organized retail theft, economic crimes, identity theft, fraud, and elder abuse. Additionally, they will address wage theft cases, which often disproportionately impact women, BIPOC, and migrant workers.
Manion hopes that the new division will help victims of wage theft understand the crime and how to report it. The prosecuting attorney plans to collaborate with the Department of Labor and Industries, law enforcement, and labor unions to create a safe environment for reporting wage theft.
Regarding concerns about theft suspects being released from jail, Manion clarifies that her team is committed to holding individuals accountable. She explains that there are alternative methods to ensure people show up for their court dates and emphasizes the importance of bringing necessary accountability to those causing harm in the community.