Seattle, WA — Councilmembers Andrew J. Lewis (District 7 – Pioneer Square to Magnolia) and Lisa Herbold (District 1 – West Seattle/South Park) announced today the City Auditor is beginning work on an audit of organized retail crime (ORC).
Since the pandemic, downtown Seattle has been adversely affected by organized retail crime. In response, this audit will examine:
- the current state of organized retail crime in Seattle;
- emerging practices from other jurisdictions; and,
- potential opportunities for the City to better address organized retail crime.
Councilmember Lewis originally requested an audit of the City’s retail theft program in March 2020. However, due to the COVID pandemic and workload issues, the City Auditor has been unable to initiate the audit until now.
Organized retail crime is a subset of overall retail theft that involves organized efforts to steal and resell high-value items, often through online marketplaces. During the pandemic, the characteristics of retail crime have shifted, and there is emerging evidence that ORC has increased during the pandemic due, in part, to increased use of online marketplaces for selling stolen goods. Several national retail organizations agree that ORC is more effectively dealt with away from the stores and at the level of the people reselling the stolen goods.
As a part of the exercise, the City Auditor will create an opportunity to engage with local businesses in order to directly learn from their experiences. The goal will be to better protect their businesses through a coordinated plan of action between the City, state, online marketplaces, and other agencies.
This comes as the Public Safety and Human Services Committee, for which Councilmember Herbold serves as Chair, received a briefing on the Seattle Police Department’s Retail Theft Program. A briefing on the audit is planned for the Public Safety and Human Services Committee in advance of consideration of the 2023 City Budget.