Inside Retail Services News

WR joins AG Ferguson for ORC task force launch

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On June 23, Washington Retail (WR) joined Attorney General Bob Ferguson in Seattle for a press conference, announcing his newly formed Washington Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Theft Task Force. For the announcement, Ferguson convened law enforcement, prosecutors, labor union, and retailers to thwart the growing problem in Washington State.

The Attorney General has committed to convening quarterly meetings for at least a year. The first Task Force meeting will be held on Thursday, July 7. Interested parties need to register by July 1.

The Task Force will work to improve coordination and collaboration between law enforcement agencies to investigate crimes that span multiple jurisdictions, put employees in harm’s way, and wreak economic damage to our state.

In his remarks, Ferguson said, “The tentacles of organized retail crime affect all Washingtonians. It’s going to take a statewide effort to get arms around it and address it.”

Renee Sunde, WR’s President/CEO, added, “There has never been a more critical time in Washington State to address the impacts of Organized Retail Crime on public safety and the safety of our customers and retail employees. As the retail industry recovers from the pandemic and workforce challenges remain.”

An analysis from the Retail Industry Leaders Association estimates Washington retailers lost $2.7 billion to organized retail crime in 2021.

ORC has become a top issue for Washington Retail members as criminals have become increasingly brazen and violent in their attacks on retail stores throughout Washington State. Coordinated investigations at the state level are especially important to small retailers due to their lack of resources to address this growing problem. ORC has threatened public safety, the safety of our customers, and retail employees. “Many of our frontline retail workers have witnessed these outrageous crimes in action and have faced physical threats,” Sunde said.

As more thefts are turning violent – and even deadly – in retail stores, the multibillion-dollar problem has led to increased prices for shoppers, lost tax revenue, and product shortages as we continue recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.

Washington State isn’t alone in the battle. Over the past few years, several states have launched ORC Task Forces, including Illinois, Utah, New Mexico, New York, Arizona, and California, and nearly 40 states have ORC associations. The efforts of these task forces have been highly effective in prosecuting several multimillion-dollar cases.

Nationally, ORC’s financial impact is estimated at $69 billion annually. According to the National Retail Federation, 75% of retailers have seen an increase in ORC since 2020.

The full press conference can be viewed on TVW.

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