WR provides 2024 legislative recap at WAORCA King County meeting

May 2, 2024
Written by WR Communications

At the recent WAORCA King County monthly meeting, Crystal Leatherman, WR’s Local & State Government Affairs Manager, provided a recap of the 2024 legislative session, highlighting that the supplemental budget included a proviso for $1 million to develop strategies against organized retail crime (ORC). Crystal also outlined WR’s ongoing local efforts, which include collaborations with Pierce County’s top officials and interim discussions with state lawmakers.

During the meeting, participants shared their experiences and evolving strategies to tackle the increasing threat of retail theft and ORC. Carl Kleinknecht, Kemper Development Director of Security, shared a breakthrough on the recent dismantling of a prolific, multi-state retail theft ring. The group is allegedly responsible for stealing over $537,000 worth of clothing in Washington, also face charges in multiple counties in Oregon, and is accused of stealing thousands of dollars’ worth of designer bags in California. There has been a noticeable decrease in thefts at the targeted stores since the early April arrests of the group members.

Investigators executing a search warrant at the suspected ring leader’s home seized suspected stolen goods, vehicles that may have been purchased with fraudulent documents, and three semi-automatic rifles. It is important to note that those arrested are convicted felons and are prohibited from possessing firearms, which underscores the seriousness of the crime.

This case challenges the notion, held by some advocates and lawmakers, that ORC is a victimless crime affecting only large retailers. Washington, ranking as the state most impacted by retail theft, also sees its smaller businesses frequently targeted by these sophisticated crime rings. The broader implications for the community include endangered retail employees, inflated consumer costs, and the revenue from stolen goods used to fund other illicit activities including drug and human trafficking.

Additionally, the recruitment of vulnerable populations, including individuals suffering from addiction or mental illness and children, into these crimes is particularly alarming. For example, in addition to the three members of the Bellevue ORC ring, two of which are 18 and 24 years old, there is also a suspected 4th participant, an 11-year-old. This highlights the urgent need for legislative action to curb these crimes, protect communities, and reduce the youth-to-crime pipeline that is gaining traction across the state.

These recent efforts to tackle retail crime marks progress but there is still much more to be done. Lawmakers must address this pervasive issue head on to protect Washingtonians and the economic health of this state.


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