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Seattle police arrest 35 in 'organized' shoplifting operation at downtown Target

Most of the accused thieves were released after they were arrested. Stolen items included liquor and home goods.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Police Department (SPD) arrested 35 people for stealing thousands of dollars of merchandise from the downtown Target store, Wednesday.

The stolen items, which officers recovered, included bottles of liquor, cutlery, kitchen sets and detergent, SPD said, calling the shoplifting “organized”.

Officers identified the accused thieves, gave them trespassing notices, and then let them go.

That’s because shoplifting items $750 or less in value is a misdemeanor, and King County is not booking people into jail for low-level crimes.

“If they do come back (and) attempt to do this again, then we have a reason to actually get them booked into jail,” said SPD Det. Patrick Michaud.

One man was booked into jail because he had a Department of Corrections warrant, Michaud said.

It'll be up to the City Attorney's Office to decide whether to prosecute the accused shoplifters.

Incoming City Attorney Ann Davison has vowed to take a harder stance on these crimes.

“I think it's a good first step to show that there's some accountability here and consequences for your actions because this has been happening in plain sight for far too long,” said Jon Scholes, President and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association.

He said the problem has gotten worse in recent months.

“This shoplifting is not just costing businesses money, but it's really fueling a drug market in our city and this is the capital that drug traffickers are using to operate their enterprise, and there's lots of folks that are homeless, that are vulnerable, that are caught up in all of this,” Scholes said.

SPD it could make a much larger dent in the problem if it had more officers and resources.

“It's one of those 'drop-in-a-bucket' stories because every day there are 100, 120 people walking out of a store downtown with stolen items, but it's a step in the right direction,” Michaud said.

    

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