The Pierce County Council Public Safety Committee on Organized Retail Crime (ORC) invited me to present at their event, which took place on Monday. Six members of the council were in attendance for the meeting chaired by Councilman Dave Morell.
Jerry Lerum, an Organized Retail Crime Investigator for Home Depot Pacific Northwest, joined me as a presenter. Jerry deals with ORC daily and has witnessed it first-hand. ORC is a $55 billion national crisis. In Pierce County alone, that equates to $20 million in losses. Many people don’t realize that stolen merchandise is sold illegally, and the government misses out on the sales tax revenue. Lost sales tax revenue in Pierce County could have been used to purchase 16 fire trucks, hire 35 new firefighters, or fund its libraries and parks.
Lerum said many of the stolen products end up in pawn shops and secondhand stores – often in original packaging. Other stolen goods are returned to the stores for credit or gift cards, and some end up for sale on internet websites. Additionally, some stolen goods are shipped and sold out of state and overseas. These criminal organizations have been tied to human trafficking, terrorism, the sex trade, and other illegal activities.
Increasingly these ORC crimes are becoming more dangerous. Customers, employees, and the crooks themselves are often injured or even killed.
WR and Pierce County are working on solutions to ORC. Individuals who have mental illness and substance addiction are the ones often committing retail theft. These individuals are preyed upon by ORC bosses that know they will do anything to get their “fix.” To help break the cycle, Pierce County opened the Crisis Recovery Center in August of this year. This state-of-the-art facility allows law enforcement and first responders the ability to bring someone under crisis to this clinic for needed treatment. Hopefully, the CRC will help them address their illness and return to a lawful life.
WR has also joined the Public Safety Alliance of Washington. This statewide organization will seek to educate public officials and citizens about what policies are working, and which are not, as they relate to public safety. Finally, WR will be working with stakeholders to revisit several recently enacted police reform bills that went too far and are now having unintended consequences in our communities. We appreciate Pierce County making ORC and public safety a priority and look forward to partnering with them on solutions to these pressing issues.