WR participated in the kick-off of the Vibrant Communities Initiative organized by our national partner, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), in Seattle last week.
The initiative seeks to unite various decision-makers and stakeholders in public safety, retail theft, and organized retail crime to develop best practices and strategies to deploy throughout the country. In addition to WR, the meeting included prosecutors, law enforcement, loss prevention, asset protection, diversion, and treatment professionals from around the region, focused mainly on Seattle and King County.
The issue received particular attention with the unfortunate announcement by Target it will be closing two Seattle stores over concerns with safety and retail theft.
Seattle and King County were selected partly because of the unique partnership shared by the Seattle Attorney’s Office and the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. In particular, the focus by these offices is on the high utilizers – or repeat offenders – to begin to lessen the impact of these crimes on our communities and to provide the services needed to those living with mental illness or substance abuse disorders to break the cycle many these individuals are facing. Sadly, many retail thieves are recruited and preyed upon by the organized retail crime rings plaguing our state and cities. These ORC rings are often multi-state and multi-national operations. Recently, a crime ring from Columbia was apprehended in Bellevue with nearly $80,000 worth of stolen clothing.
WR applauds RILA for convening Vibrant Communities in our state. We are excited about the potential for developing tools that will benefit cities and states across the country. Many of these strategies and recommendations are highlighted in the Seattle Auditors report on organized retail crime, including enhancing and upgrading technology in the fight against crime. Standardizing reporting, filing, and prosecution across retail companies, law enforcement agencies, and prosecutors will speed up the process, volume, and accuracy and lead to more efficient use of all parties’ limited resources while yielding more significant results.
Stay tuned for further updates and discussions as subcommittees and pilot projects conduct their work. This nearly year-long project hopes to wrap up its findings and recommendations in the summer of 2024.