Last week, WR joined Attorney General Bob Ferguson in Seattle for a press conference, announcing his newly formed Washington Organized Retail Crime Theft Task Force. For the announcement, Ferguson convened law enforcement, prosecutors, and retailers to thwart the growing problem in Washington State.
The Task Force will work to improve coordination and collaboration between law enforcement agencies to address crimes that span multiple jurisdictions, put employees in harm’s way, and wreak economic damage to our state.
In his remarks, Ferguson said, “The tentacles of organized retail crime affects all Washingtonians. It’s going to take a statewide effort to get arms around it and address it.”
Sunde added, “There has never been a more critical time in Washington State to address the impacts of Organized Retail Crime on public safety and the safety of our customers and retail employees. As the retail industry recovers from the pandemic and workforce challenges remain.”
An analysis from the Retail Industry Leaders Association estimates Washington retailers lost $2.7 billion to organized retail crime in 2021.
ORC has become a top issue for Washington Retail members as criminals have become increasingly brazen and violent in their attacks on retail stores throughout Washington State. It has threatened public safety, the safety of our customers, and retail employees. “Many of our frontline retail workers have witnessed these outrageous crimes in action and have faced physical threats,” Sunde said.
Sally West, Regional Director, Walgreens Government Relations, emphasized, “Providing a safe environment for our customers, patients, and team members is our top priority. Our efforts to address all forms of criminal activity, including organized retail crime, is a multi-faceted approach, including working with law enforcement, legislators, and the public about the cost of retail theft.”
“The Home Depot is fighting ORC on all fronts,” said Mike Combs, Director of Asset Protection for The Home Depot. “Online marketplaces make it easy to sell stolen and counterfeit items quickly and with little oversight, taking advantage of customers. We’re proud to be a member of this task force and partner with the Attorney General to prioritize large cases and dismantle these large, organized retail crime rings.”
As more thefts are turning violent – and even deadly – in retail stores, the multibillion-dollar problem has led to increased prices for shoppers, lost tax revenue, and product shortages as we continue recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.
Scott Draher, Lowe’s vice president of asset protection, said, “We are committed to working hand-in-hand with the task force to curb theft and make sure those who are responsible for this criminal activity are held accountable,”
Washington State isn’t alone in the battle. Over the past few years, several states have launched ORC Task Forces. The efforts of these task forces have been highly effective in prosecuting several multimillion-dollar cases.
Nationally, ORC’s financial impact is estimated at $69 billion annually. According to the National Retail Federation, 75% of retailers have seen an increase in ORC since 2020.
The Attorney General has committed to convening quarterly meetings for at least a year. The first Task Force meeting will be held on Thursday, July 7.