Ferguson seeks funding to hire a 10-person unit, including prosecutors and investigators, to combat organized retail crime
OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that he is pursuing funding from the Legislature to establish an Organized Retail Crime Unit in his office.
Organized Retail Crime involves a group of individuals that steal products not for their own personal use, but to resell them for a profit. This does not include general retail crimes like petty theft, shoplifting or poverty-driven crimes.
Ferguson convened an Organized Retail Crime Task Force this year to improve coordination and collaboration among law enforcement agencies to address these multi-jurisdictional crimes that endanger employees and cause significant economic harm to our state. The Task Force is focused on sophisticated, organized crime rings that account for almost $70 billion in retail losses across the country. More than 100 individuals attended the first Task Force meeting, including retailers, workers, small business owners and state, local and federal law enforcement. A consistent message at the meeting was the need for additional resources to address these sophisticated crimes.
The Organized Retail Crimes Unit will be able to assist with investigations — including coordinating them across multiple jurisdictions — and deploy resources where they are most needed. The unit will also be able to prosecute cases referred the office by county prosecutors. Without such a referral, the Attorney General’s Office has no jurisdiction over criminal matters.
“Washington law enforcement agencies have limited resources to tackle these sophisticated crimes,” Ferguson said. “A modest investment in a centralized statewide organized retail crimes unit will hold criminals accountable and deter crimes which cause significant economic harm to our state.”
“As the retail industry continues to recover from the pandemic, there has never been a more critical time in Washington state to address the growing impacts of organized retail crime on public safety and the safety of our customers and retail employees,” said Renée Sunde, president and CEO of the Washington Retail Association. “Funding the unit is an important part of a multi-pronged approach to coordinate the efforts of state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers and policymakers at multiple agencies and levels of government.”
“Organized retail crime harms workers in communities across our state,” said Faye Guenther, president of UFCW 3000. “A centralized unit in the Attorney General’s Office focused on combating this problem will improve the lives of Washingtonians.”
UFCW 3000 is the largest UFCW local union in the country with over 50,000 members working in grocery, retail, health care, meat packing, cannabis and other industries across Washington state, northeast Oregon and northern Idaho.
To fund the 10 full-time positions, the Attorney General’s Office is asking for approximately $1.5 million per year.
Nine other states have a task force dedicated to organized retail crime. Multiple states recently established similar units in their state attorney general’s office, including Arizona and Michigan.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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