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Washington State Liquor Control Board may require stores to report theft

The Washington State Liquor Control Board may soon require stores to report liquor theft. (AP Photo/file)

A recent KIRO Radio investigation found some retailers are losing $1,000 a day to liquor theft. The stores say those numbers are overblown, but there is no way to track the actual numbers because stores don’t report their losses. That could now change.

The Washington State Liquor Control Board is considering whether it should require retailers to report their liquor thefts, from one bottle going out the door, to a gang of thieves making off with a shopping cart of booze.

Brian Smith, with the liquor board, said they were asked to take this step by the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs, and he believes it’s a good idea.

“It’s a step in the right direction to be able to get some sort of handle on the actual amount of liquor that’s been going out because it’s not typically reported,” he said.

Law enforcement wants the data so it can figure out how to combat the theft.

“We want some data so that we can then sit down and have some meaningful discussion rather than guessing at it or hearing anecdotes,” said Mitch Barker, executive director of the association.

Then the police can start working with the stores on prevention.

“It’s a real public safety issue because it’s not just a bottle here and a bottle there,” said Smith. “What we’re hearing is people stealing a lot at once. It gets out on the black market and that’s where kids have access to it and it’s untaxed and sold that way.”

“I think once we have it, it will tell us some things, either that there’s no real problem or it’s no greater than theft or shoplifting of beef jerky. I think it will give us the numbers. I think it will give us locations.”

The liquor board will consider the idea for the first time Wednesday, and mandatory reporting could be required of all retailers by early next year.

Retailers aren’t sold on the idea. They say publicizing the numbers could tell thieves which stores are more vulnerable to theft.

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