Rantz: Seattle activists admire ‘boldness’ of shoplifting, say it’s justified

Jan 31, 2022, 6:01 PM
Target in downtown Seattle (Surveillance footage)
(Surveillance footage)

While reasonable Seattleites see shoplifting as a serious problem that is destroying businesses and hurting our quality of life, local activists think it’s bold and justified.

The downtown Seattle Target has been the target of shoplifters multiple times a day. Target is not alone. Large and small retail businesses in the area experience a stream of shoplifters. Some of it is organized crime, and much of it is driven by homeless criminals. Businesses are going under, in part, because of this crime.

But not everyone thinks it’s a big deal. Some want to defend or downplay the theft.

Blogger for The Stranger admires shoplifting

Hannah Krieg is a blogger with The Stranger, an alt-weekly that previously begged for money to stay afloat. You would think they understand the difficulties of running a business in Seattle. But when it comes to homeless shoplifters, they get inspired.

John Ray Lomack is a prolific shoplifter who is charged with brazenly stealing a 70″ television from Target. It was all caught on video surveillance. Kreig thought it was pretty cool.

“You gotta admire the boldness of walking out with a box the size of a smart car,” Kreig wrote.

After learning Lomack was released on his own personal recognizance, despite his nearly four-decades worth of criminal behavior, Kreig offered to buy light-on-crime Judge Kuljinder Dhillon a drink. Then she implies low-income and poor people are criminals and that Target will survive, so it’s no big deal.

“Rantz said this judge is notoriously easy on homeless people, which seems fair — crime is often a symptom of poverty, and I think Target will survive the damage,” she writes. “But of course, so many people need a pound of flesh when a poor person does something silly that hurts no human person.”

I’m not sure if it’s ignorance or anti-Semitism for her to use the Shylock reference in response to this Jewish host’s article.

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These are arguments of a dullard

Crime isn’t a symptom of poverty, and neither is this kind of shoplifting.

Progressives who justify lawlessness often couch their dangerous views under the guise of defending so-called “crimes of poverty.”

They claim these are crimes people commit just to stay alive. They frame their positions in ways to make themselves sound like heroes standing up for the poor. But they’re villains standing up for criminals. Lomack isn’t accused of stealing a sandwich because he was hungry.

Further, the idea that Target “will survive” is the position of a blind ideology whose hatred of corporations has developed into delusion. And in fairness, Kreig is not the only one to generate such a witless take.

The activists who want to defund the police so criminals can get away with shoplifting — and more — echo the belief that Target can weather the storm. DivestSPD on Twitter ran its usual Kshama Sawant talking points about evil “giant corporations” their friends either shop at or rob.

It’s not a one-off

Kreig argues as if this is just one instance of shoplifting.

Target is victimized all day, every day, according to staff. And if their stores are constantly targeted for crime, if they can’t keep employees safe, if they can’t turn a profit, or if it becomes a legal liability, they close. And while activists love to think all corporations can weather a global pandemic, the reality is much different.

Perhaps she’s new to the city, but some of those big corporations she loathes are going bankrupt and/or leaving Seattle. J. Crew, Forever 21, Brooks Brothers, and Sur La Table are out of Seattle. Macy’s is gone, too, if she hadn’t noticed. Columbia Sportswear? Closed.

Those closures mean jobs are lost. Not every business sets up a beg-athon to stay operational like The Stranger.

Kreig seems to think this crisis only impacts big businesses, but it doesn’t. Shoplifters aren’t going after the “giant corporations.” They’re going after the little guys, too.

Small business owners cry out for help

Jay Ashberg’s small, local business — Seattle Shirt Company — is constantly hit by homeless and other vandals.

“During the day, we’ve got people trying to shoplift all the time. And then at night, … there’s been in the last three, four months, we’ve had our glass broken three or four times and three actual burglaries,” Ashberg told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “And two were literally one night after the next … And then one was like three, four months ago. So we’ve had three burglaries, but we’ve never in 30 years [prior] had any burglaries at all.”

Nearby Sneaker City, a mom-and-pop shoe store that’s been downtown for 20 years, is calling it quits. The crime has become too much. In the last two years, the store suffered at least 15 break-ins.

“Our doors were broken into multiple times so we stopped replacing the glass,” owner Caroline Cho told KOMO News.

But to Krieg, these are just examples of “poor” people doing “something silly that hurts no human person.”

Vibrancy actually matters

Seattle activists simultaneously downplay the homelessness crime crisis, while blaming the big corporations they frequent or work for.

Maybe without Target, or even Amazon, the city would be better, they claim. It’ll be filled with small businesses that don’t just have Seattle character, but will pay a living wage! Sure, The Stranger couldn’t pay livable wages without handouts but Sneaker City getting broken into daily? They’ll survive!

A mix of retail — big and small — brings residents and tourists to neighborhoods. It’s what helps create vibrancy downtown. Unfortunately, that hasn’t existed in Seattle for years. It’s not safe or pleasant to visit downtown Seattle, and outlets like The Stranger, instead of putting pressure on city leaders to do something, advocate for approaches that have made the problem worse.

DivestSPD activists certainly won’t step up with anything more than copying and pasting some screed they read in Jacobin.

Downtown Seattle is currently filled with mentally ill and addicted homeless zombies in desperate need of help. But if the city won’t offer it to them, content with letting them suffer on the street as they lobby for federal housing subsidies, the least we can do is help the businesses survive.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3–6 pm on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz  on  Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

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Rantz: Seattle activists admire ‘boldness’ of shoplifting, say it’s justified