Griffey continues efforts to empower retailers to fight shoplifting

Following news Bartell Drugs will no longer open new stores in downtown Seattle after incidents of shoplifting and violence against employees, Rep. Dan Griffey said he is doubling down on his efforts get legislation approved that would help retailers crack down on crime.

Griffey's House Bill 1159 would specifically target organized retail theft by modifying the definition of “theft” to include the crime of concealment. This occurs when someone hides merchandise under clothing, or in pockets or bags, with the intent of stealing.

Under current law, loss prevention officers and law enforcement are not able to apprehend individuals until they have exited the establishment with the merchandise. Griffey's bill would change that, allowing loss prevention officers and law enforcement to apprehend the individual while still in the store.

In a recent story from Q13 News, Bartell Drugs CEO Kathi Lentzsch said criminals feel emboldened because they know employees' hands are tied.

“[Shoplifters] will stand in front of our staff with a basket full of products and tell them we know you can't come after us and walk out the door,” she said.

This problem isn't unique to Bartell Drugs. During a public hearing on Griffey's bill earlier this year, Michael Latham with Town and Country Markets recounted a story of a man donning a trench coat with multiple internal pockets sewn into the garment entering an establishment, stuffing bottles of alcohol into the pockets, and exiting the story. The incident resulted in roughly $1,000 lost in product.

“Allowing staff to intervene earlier will undoubtedly keep employees and customers safe, and help prevent major losses to stores,” said Griffey. R-Allyn. “While these enterprises end up costing retailers, they actually impact the entire state. Loss of sales results in loss of sales tax revenue.”

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, U.S. retailers lost about $50 billion to theft in 2017. For Washington state, that resulted in roughly $940 million lost, which equates to about $90 million in unrealized sales tax revenue.

Griffey and supporters of the bill say this is about more than just money.

“Sadly, retailers are seeing a lot of these crimes being committed by individuals with substance use disorders or those suffering behavioral or mental health crises,” said Griffey. “If we can engage with these individuals earlier, we can hopefully help break the cycle of theft and other criminal behavior, and divert them to the services they need.”

House Bill 1159 did not advance this legislative session, but Griffey has reassured retailers it will be resurrected during the next legislative session.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov