Three retail theft bills failed to pass key cutoffs this session and are not likely to receive further consideration this year.
Retail thefts in Washington are continuing to increase, accounting for $2.7 billion stolen from retailers in 2021, according to the Retail Industry Leaders Association.
Not only do thefts lead to higher prices, decreased sales tax collection, and scarcity of available products, many retail theft incidents are turning violent. Reports and video surveillance show just how brazen and ruthless these criminals are. They are often armed and show no regard for safety of the other customers, store employees, law enforcement, or even themselves.
Three bills sought to start to turn the rise in these crimes. House Bill 1614, the consumer product theft and safety act, would have required high-volume third-party online sellers to make available information to help law enforcement with stolen product tracking and criminal investigations. Many retail thieves fence their stolen goods on these platforms.
House Bill 1656 would have added the act of concealment to the definition of theft. Many retail thieves hide products to thwart store employees and law enforcement.
Senate Bill 5781 would have added multiple accomplices to the organized retail theft laws to enhance penalties for these types of crimes. Retail theft rings often work in teams to increase the amount they can steal and lessen the chances of being apprehended.
All three bills had excellent hearings with lots of support from a variety of stakeholders. Unfortunately, legislative leaders decided not to advance these helpful measures.
One bright spot is a narrow bill for the cannabis industry, SB 5927, which enhances robbery of one of these retailers, which WR supported. It was heard in the House and passed out of committee Tuesday. The prospects of passage are promising.
WR will continue to fight for new tools in the war against retail theft and protecting public safety.