The WR Government Affairs team, along with key WR members, has been meeting with several high-level legislators to advocate for solutions to increasing public safety, reducing retail theft, and cracking down on organized retail crime (ORC). Having actual retail business owners describe how they, their employees, and customers are impacted is extremely helpful in providing meaningful examples to help elected officials understand the magnitude of the problem and the solutions needed.
According to the recently released report from the National Retail Federation (NRF), over $112 billion was stolen from retailers nationwide in 2022—up from $93 billion in 2021. Even more troubling is that the thefts are becoming increasingly violent. Many retailers are expressing concerns about providing a safe working and shopping experience. Some have even been forced to close stores over unsafe conditions.
WR realizes that no one strategy will solve this complex and massive problem. Instead, a suite of tactics must be adopted and deployed for long-term impact. Fortunately, Congress, the state, and local governments are reacting positively. Congress has enacted the online transparency law, which makes it less attractive for retail thieves and ORC rings to fence/sell stolen and counterfeit goods on legitimate websites. The Combatting Organized Retail Crime Act (CORCA) – S. 140 and HR 895 are gaining widespread bi-partisan support and show signs of passing Congress this year.
On a state level, the Washington ORC Task Force is hiring a team of prosecutors, investigators, and data analysts who will go after the mega ORC rings plaguing our communities. On a local level, WR was ecstatic when the Seattle Auditor issued its well-thought-out and thoroughly investigated report on combatting ORC. The Retail Industry Leaders Association recently convened the “Vibrant Communities” initiative to pilot best practices and cooperative efforts in the Seattle King County area in hopes of deploying their findings nationwide.
More work is yet to be done. Recruiting, retaining, and training law enforcement is a significant priority for all levels of government. Also, our vehicle pursuit guidelines must be made clear and safe while bestowing proper authority for police to pursue property criminal suspects without jeopardizing the public or their safety. WR will advocate for both of these strategies now and in the 2024 Legislative Session.