WR addresses Lacey South Sound Chamber

Jan 4, 2024
Written by WR Communications


WR Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs Mark Johnson was the keynote speaker for the January 3 luncheon of the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce (LSSCC). Johnson addressed the important topics of worker and customer safety, retail theft, and organized retail crime (ORC). Renée Sunde, WR President and CEO and former LSSCC President attended the event.

Johnson focused on the challenges of providing a safe working environment and place to shop for customers amid rampant retail theft, often committed by ORC rings. According to the National Retail Federation, retail theft accounts for over $112 billion in losses nationwide and almost $3 billion in Washington state alone, equating to more than $300 million in uncollected taxes. Shockingly, 54% of small businesses surveyed experienced increased theft in 2022.

ORC rings use the “proceeds” from fencing stolen goods to fund most of their other criminal activities. These rings are becoming more and more violent and hostile, endangering the safety of shoppers and employees.

So what can be done? Progress is being made in this fight. The federal passage of the online transparency act, which went into effect June 2023 – making it harder to fence stolen goods is taking a toll. The “Vibrant Communities” national effort – pilot program being conducted in Seattle/King County by the Retail Industry Leaders Association is showing promise. The Washington State Organized Retail Crime Task Force has filed its first case and is hiring new unit members. Its next meeting is on January 23. Congress is debating and will likely pass the Combatting Organized Retail Crime Act (CORCA), which will bring together federal agencies in the fight against ORC nationally and internationally.

While battles are being won, much more is still left to do. Law enforcement needs to be empowered to, once again, with proper approval training, and only when safe, pursue suspected property criminals in their vehicles. The qualification of Initiative 2113 to the Legislature and eventually the people on November’s ballot is encouraging that action will be taken. Enhancements and tools for law enforcement and prosecutors are needed. Targeting theft rings and multiple accomplices and allowing the apprehension of criminals concealing stolen goods would all help. Small businesses are not immune from retail theft. Grants funded with federal dollars to help purchase deterrent and protection measures would be a welcomed addition. Diversion programs for retail thieves who are being prayed upon by ORC rings because they are suffering from substance abuse, addiction, and/or mental illness are essential. Funding and strategies to increase the number of law enforcement officers in our communities. Washington currently ranks at the bottom.

WR strongly values its partnership with the Lacey South Sound Chamber of Commerce and commends it for educating its members on this important issue.


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