Bob Ferguson

Bob Ferguson

Statewide task force to tackle organized retail crime rings

Group brings law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers together to combat growing problem

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday, June 23 the creation of a statewide Organized Retail Crime Theft Task Force.

The Task Force will improve coordination and collaboration among law enforcement agencies to address these multi-jurisdictional crimes that endanger employees and cause significant economic harm to our state, according to a state Attorney General’s Office news release.

The task force will focus on sophisticated, organized crime rings that account for almost $70 billion in retail losses across the country.

The task force is the first of its kind in Washington, according to the news release. Nine other states have a task force dedicated to organized retail crime.

An analysis from the Retail Industry Leaders Association estimates Washington retailers lost $2.7 billion to organized retail crime in 2021. Federal crime statistics show that the value of items stolen from Washington retailers increased by 151% from 2019 to 2020.

The first task force meeting will be July 7. Ferguson has committed to convening quarterly meetings for at least a year.

“Coordination is key to combating this growing, and sometimes dangerous problem,” Ferguson said. “These organized crimes cross jurisdictions and cause significant economic harm. I’m committed to working together with law enforcement and retail partners to put help combat this significant and growing problem.”

Organized retail crime involves a group of individuals that steal products not for their own personal use, but to resell them for a profit. This does not include general retail crimes like petty theft, shoplifting or poverty-driven crimes.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the thefts that the task force will focus on are often perpetrated by sophisticated criminal organizations, and can involve threats to store staff and the public, according to the news release.

Often, but not always, these stolen goods are then sold on online marketplaces.

Organized retail crime differs from burglary and larceny — such as shoplifting — in that it is not the result of a single individual breaking the law, but rather part of an organized scheme to defraud retailers or to steal products for resale elsewhere. Organized crime can result in intimidation and violence for employees in those stores.

Even before the recent, well-publicized national shortage, baby formula accounted for 13% of the most-stolen items from stores, according to the 2020 National Retail Foundation Organized Retail Crime survey. The stolen formula then can appear for sale on online marketplaces.

Parents who buy stolen formula on the secondary market may be putting their babies at significant risk if the thieves failed to store it at the appropriate temperature, according to the news release. Additionally, thieves may have manipulated the packaging, such as changing expiration dates.

Washington’s legal cannabis retailers provide another example. The state Liquor and Cannabis Board has reported more than marijuana retail store robberies through the first three months of this year.

These incidents can be dangerous and traumatic for employees. For example, in March, a suspect took an employee hostage before being fatally shot by the store’s security guard.

At a robbery in Bellevue, police pursued three suspects into a south Seattle neighborhood. Two suspects surrendered, but the third engaged in a standoff with police before opening fire and ultimately being killed by officers.

The task force will bring together prosecutors and retailers from across the state with local, state and federal law enforcement representatives, including the FBI and U.S. Attorneys Nick Brown and Vanessa Waldref. The task force will also include the Port of Seattle, small business representatives and workers’ representatives.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@rentonreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.rentonreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Northwest

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterburg (File Photo)
King County Prosecuting Attorney vows to protect reproductive freedom

Dan Satterberg joins over 80 prosecutors from around the country in their pledge.

Fedor Osipov, 15, flips into Steel Lake in Federal Way during last year's heatwave on June 28, 2021. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Heatwave expected to hit King County

Temperatures will likely reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit on Sunday, June 26, and Monday, June 27.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII: Examining Auburn police officer’s grim tattoos

Episode 5 in special podcast series that explores Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.

t
Sound Transit Board approves Julie Timm as new CEO at $375,000 per year

She replaces Peter Rogoff who left in May after board voted to replace him

t
Statewide task force to tackle organized retail crime rings

Group brings law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers together to combat growing problem

t
Sound Transit committee recommends Julie Timm as next CEO

She is CEO of Greater Richmond Transit Company in Virginia

COURTESY PHOTO, Sound Transit
Courtesy of Hazardous Waste Management Program.
Study: Lead exposure linked to kitchen cookware from Afghan refugees in King County

The issue was first noticed in Afghan children in King County, but more communities may be at risk.

King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn, who is running for U.S. Congress in the 8th District, speaks to supporters in March. Photo courtesy of Dunn’s Facebook campaign page
Against the grain: Reagan Dunn holds the torch for King County conservatives

What it means to be the top Republican in a liberal King County government.

Assistant Secretary of Health Michele Roberts (left) and Health Secretary Umair Shah.
As COVID trends up again, state officials ‘strongly recommend’ masks

There are no new mandates in Washington. But “we really have an opportunity to get ahead of this.”

Screenshot of April 5 Edmonds City Council meeting. Inset (L-R): Mayor Mike Nelson and council members Kristiana Johnson, Will Chen, Neil Tibbott, Diane Buckshnis, Vivian Olson, Susan Paine and Laura Johnson. (City of Edmonds)
After long debate, Edmonds bans homeless people from living outside

The criminal law is unenforceable if no shelter is open within 35 miles. The City Council approved it over public outcry.

Judged by XII: A King County Local Dive podcast. The hands shown here belong to Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson, who has been charged with homicide in the 2019 death of Jesse Sarey.
JUDGED BY XII (Episode 4): Foster mom wants accountability in Auburn cop’s upcoming murder trial

Special podcast series explores Auburn Police Officer Jeffrey Nelson’s role in the death of Jesse Sarey.