As members of the Thurston County Chamber gathered for their monthly Forum luncheon this past week, the issues surrounding retail theft and organized retail crime were on the minds of business leaders.
“Communities across the state are facing a staggering increase in theft and crime with growing concerns over safety at a time when the retail industry continues to recover from the impacts of the pandemic, the highest inflation in 40 years, retail workforce shortages, and supply chain challenges,” said Renée Sunde, WR President, and CEO. “This requires the response of community leaders and policymakers alike.”
Sunde spoke on how organized retail crime (ORC) has directly impacted Thurston County businesses and throughout Washington State. Her fact-filled presentation revealed the often-crippling effects of these brazen thefts on small businesses.
“Twenty-five percent of small businesses are reporting that they had to raise prices as a result of theft within their stores, and in some cases, ORC is even creating product shortages,” Sunde said. “The threat to personal safety is also impacting the mental well-being of a lot of employees. They felt threatened. What this is resulting in is employees that are afraid to come to work.”
Sunde addressed how retailers are making safety a top priority, with 52% saying they have increased their capital investments in safety and safety equipment. Many of which are employing new technologies.
Following her remarks, Sunde introduced, Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The AG spoke about the recently formed Washington State ORC Task Force which was launched in July to bring federal, state, and local law enforcement together with retailers. Coordination and “increased communication is critical because of the complexity of these crimes,” Ferguson said.
The packed room included local business leaders and was also well-attended by retail loss prevention officers and state, county, and local law enforcement officers.