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Uwajimaya CEO on why her business gave up reporting crimes to SPD

Seattle's Uwajimaya market. (Erin Covey, KIRO Radio)

The latest prolific offenders report was greeted with more disappointment than surprise by business owners like Uwajimaya CEO Denise Moriguchi, with tidbits coming out that 87 of the original 100 prolific offenders in the last report have been booked into jail again more than 220 times, and a dozen booked into jail more than five times each.

What does this mean for Seattle businesses seeing such crimes every week? Uwajimaya CEO Denise Moriguchi joined the Candy, Mike and Todd Show to discuss why her business temporarily stopped bothering to report crimes to the Seattle Police Department.

“We’re concerned for the safety of our employees, for the residents, for customers. And it’s something unfortunately now we have to deal with more and more, and it doesn’t seem like things are getting better,” she said.

“System Failure 2” makes mention of a retail theft program that allows businesses to report incidents online with the Seattle Police Department. It’s a system Moriguchi has had trouble with, and caused her temporarily to give up on reporting incidents in her stores altogether.

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“The main reason is we weren’t seeing a lot of traction with reporting. It takes time. It takes people away from their everyday job. It takes effort, and without a lot of results, you kind of question why you’re doing it,” she said.

“Typically we feel like not a lot happens,” Moriguchi continued. “We do see run-ins with people that are stealing or have had confrontations with employees, have been disruptive in the store. And the SPD is called and they’re great. But the next day or the next afternoon that person is back in the store, so it’s difficult to see how when we do report things, how it’s actually contributing to making things better.”

Taking data from the municipal court system, Seattle police, and City Attorney Pete Holmes’ office, “System Failure 2” asserts that the city prosecutor declines to file on nearly half of the referrals it receives (5,000 cases each year); takes more than six months to file charges on cases it does move forward; and declines to press charges 65 percent of the people who are suspected of crimes but not in custody.

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Moriguchi says that ultimately Uwajimaya did continue reporting incidents after temporarily giving up, because not doing so mistakenly created the impression that things have improved, which they haven’t. Still, she believes the system desperately needs to change.

“We do keep reporting, but I think it just shows that that we need more resolution. We need a better system. Right now it seems like it’s broken. Someone can steal or have an altercation with someone and nothing really happens, and so it’s frustrating and we want to know how can we change that?” she said.

“How can there be more help for the person that needs it? So they just don’t get put back on the street and kind of go back to doing the same thing again.”

Listen to The Candy, Mike, and Todd Show weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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