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Washington announces new task force to combat organized retail theft

The task force is made up of multiple law enforcement agencies and retail chains with the goal of coordinating their efforts in cracking down on the crime rings.

SEATTLE — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the creation of the Organized Retail Crime Theft Task Force on Thursday. The Task Force will focus on sophisticated, organized crime rings and work to stop them.

According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association, organized theft cost Washington’s retailers around $2.7 billion last year.

Given the magnitude of losses, Ferguson says it’s vital that multiple agencies and retailers work together because organized retail theft is simply too big for one organization to take on alone.

“No one retail store, no one prosecutor, no one attorney general, no one US Attorney can solve the problem. It’s just way too big,” Ferguson said. “I found in my experience, from working with other task forces and other contexts, that sharing of information helps with enforcement, helps with prevention, raises the profile of the issue, and gets folks in the room to make sure we go after the bad guys, hold them accountable, and the provide the resources we need to help retailers and small businesses who’re dealing with these challenges.”

Seattle Shirt Company owner Jay Ashberg appreciates the state’s announcement.

“What it tells me is that they’re taking notice, it’s an issue, and they’re acting on it,” Ashberg said. “They’re doing something about it.”

Ashberg has been in business since 1989 and says while shoplifting has always been an unfortunate part of business, things have intensified over the past few years.

Ashberg says Seattle’s own efforts to address public safety and shoplifting have moved the needle in making businesses safer and hopes the new task force will continue to move things in the right direction.

“It basically tells the criminals, and these organized crime rings, and shoplifters that the fun is over, it’s not a free ride anymore,” he said.

The first Organized Retail Crime Theft Task Force meeting will be held in two weeks on July 7. The Attorney General says he is committed to convening quarterly meetings for at least a year.


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