Rep. Schrier sponsoring bill cracking down on organized retail theft
Aug 3, 2023, 4:33 PM
Washington Congresswoman Kim Schrier is taking aim at organized retail theft with a new bill she co-sponsored this week.
The “Combating Organized Retail Crime Act” is a bipartisan bill outlining steps to crack down on organized retail crime. The bill stated organized retail crime has become increasingly prevalent across the United States, with ramifications including threatening local businesses and jobs, putting employees and customers at risk, and fueling transnational criminal organizations’ other illicit activities, including human, drug, and weapons trafficking.
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If passed by Congress, it would establish a Coordination Center within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for law enforcement and the private sector.
“But with the real patchwork of where enforcement happens and different rules in every city in every state, criminals know exactly what they can get away with, so putting the Feds on this provides an additional layer of being able to crack down,” Schrier said.
Schrier used a Target in Issaquah as a backdrop for her press conference, a store that, earlier this year, was the site of four arrests in three separate theft incidents within a five-hour period earlier this year. Officers recovered about $750 worth of stolen merchandise over the three incidents.
Last year, Issaquah government officials claimed there was an “unacceptable level” of shoplifting at its Target store, creating a public nuisance. City Administrator Wally Bobkiewicz told The Issaquah Daily in 2022 that there had been numerous eyewitness reports of shopping carts full of televisions working their way down Newport Way, alongside reports of people attempting to sell goods at the Issaquah Transit Center and reports of people on buses riding back to Seattle with large amounts of stolen goods.
Under Chief Paula Schwan, the Issaquah Police Department has steadily hired employees to increase the strength of the department, including entry-level and lateral-level officers, filling positions in the onsite corrections facility, and bringing the communications center back to full staff. Schwan stated the department was able to do this through signing bonuses and using social media to boost recruitment. In Schwan’s first four months as chief last year, the department hired 16 people.
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A new report from the Seattle City Auditor’s Office said more than half of Washington retailers have reported an increase in theft, resulting in $2.7 billion in estimated losses statewide.
The Combating Organized Retail Crime Act is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.