Rep. Dan Griffey says bill should become law after crash involving shoplifting suspect injures 11

Rep. Dan Griffey wants to tackle out-of-control retail crime by including concealment in the definition of theft, after a serious accident in Burien injured 11 people, including three critically. Police say a van, they believe was being used as a getaway vehicle for a shoplifting crime, slammed into a Ross store. Among the people critically injured was a two-year-old boy sitting in his stroller inside the store.

“This is the kind of senseless tragedy that House Bill 1159 could help prevent,” said Griffey, R-Allyn.

Under current Washington law, retailers are helpless to stop shoplifters in the act of concealment. Law enforcement and loss prevention officers can't apprehend a suspected shoplifter until the person has exited the establishment with the merchandise.

“We need to change the definition of 'theft' to include the crime of concealment,” said Griffey. Concealment occurs when someone hides merchandise under clothing, or in pockets or bags, with the intent of stealing.

“By making the act of concealment theft, retailers would be able to better fight shoplifting,” added Griffey. “It could also help reduce the fight or flight response from shoplifters that can lead to more serious consequences, like leaving an innocent two-year-old in critical condition.”

Police say the driver of the van in the crash was waiting outside the Ross store for a female suspect, who they say was shoplifting. According to investigators, the suspect ran out of the store, jumped into the passenger seat, and then the driver took off.

Police say he struck a parked vehicle then slammed the van into the store. They arrested the driver of the van for “suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs,” according to news reports.

“If the law allowed retailers to stop shoplifters inside the store, this tragedy likely would have been avoided,” said Griffey. “This is exactly why I'm going to be pushing harder for House Bill 1159 to become law during the upcoming legislative session. We can't continue to see innocent people hurt because of the poor choices of others. And retailers need to be able to protect their assets.”

The bill didn't advance during the 2019 legislative session. However, Griffey is working to get more support to revive and pass the measure during the upcoming session, which he hopes will finally allow retailers to reduce shoplifting in Washington state.

The 2020 legislative session begins Jan. 13 and last 60 days.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov