State AG announces new task force to focus on retail theft

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With retail theft on the rise, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said it’s time for a tougher approach.

On Thursday, Ferguson unveiled a new task force to crack down on organized crime that costs the state billions.

While Seattle retailers have been hit the hardest by the toxic trend, grocery stores across the state have been the hardest hit, and Ferguson acknowledged that stores and local law enforcement need help.

Some local retailers have taken extreme measures to prevent theft. A Seattle QFC has created a plexiglass maze to keep shoplifters out quickly.

KIRO 7 recently reported that a security guard was seen on camera tackling a suspected thief.

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And while some extreme measures can help reduce petty theft, Ferguson said that’s no match for organized crime networks, which sometimes involve dozens of individuals banding together to carry out multiple store robberies.

“No retail store, no prosecutor, no attorney general, no US attorney can solve the problem. It’s just way too big,” Ferguson said.

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Retail organized crime cost the state $2.7 billion last year, which is why Ferguson created the Retail Organized Crime Task Force – an effort by collaboration with law enforcement agencies in multiple jurisdictions.

“(We are) working to bring our resources together, share information (and) work together to tackle what is really a huge, huge challenge,” Ferguson said.

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Organized crime could look like three men coordinating an early morning break-in, or it could happen on a smaller scale, like at downtown Seattle Target, where police arrested a man after he stole alcohol 22 times in a few days.

However, one of the task force’s biggest concerns is stolen formula, which is then resold on secondary sites like Amazon and becomes a risk to parents.

“This means that parents who unwittingly buy stolen infant formula on the secondary market can put their babies at significant risk if the thieves, for example, do not store the product at the appropriate temperatures, or if the thieves have tampered with the packaging, such as swapping the expiration date,” Ferguson said.

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He said the task force hopes to have an immediate impact across the state.

“We are all coming together to address what is truly a real crisis in our state (and) … has significant implications for businesses and for the people of our state,” Ferguson said.

While you may think retail theft has no impact on a consumer, it does. An increase in theft means an increase in prices.

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