King County has created a new subdivision to address the escalating issue of retail theft. The county’s Prosecuting Attorney, Leesa Manion, introduced the Economic Crimes and Wage Theft unit this year, dedicating a prosecutor specifically to retail crime cases. Patrick Hinds, who leads this division, noted the persistently high rate of these offenses.
Between 2021 and 2022, King County’s retail crime case filings tripled. Although prosecutors anticipate fewer cases this year, the issue remains daunting. Hinds emphasized that the crimes in question are not minor shoplifting incidents but are more violent or complex.
The unit’s focus includes cases like that of Earnetra Turner. Prosecutor Nicole Lawson mentioned that with seven open cases, Turner was successfully prosecuted in June 2023, having caused substantial financial losses to the county, amounting to several hundred thousand dollars. Turner received a sentence of more than four years in prison.
Retail crime in King County during 2021-2022 resulted in approximately $3 billion in losses for the state.
Hinds stressed the importance of reporting retail crimes to law enforcement. Such reports are crucial for prosecutors to develop and implement effective strategies to combat this growing problem. Mark Johnson, WR VP of Policy & Government Affairs, said, “I’ve talked to a number of people who said they’re just paying out of pocket for claims because they’re scared, they don’t want to lose their insurance.”