Seattle City Councilmembers Herbold, Lewis announce organized retail crime recommendations 

City response to include more thorough investigation practices, technology, underutilized federal and state law enforcement resources  

A new report highlighting new approaches to address organized retail theft in Seattle was released by the Seattle City Auditor David Jones today. The report, requested by Councilmembers Andrew J. Lewis (District 7, Pioneer Square to Magnolia) and Lisa Herbold (District 1, West Seattle and South Park), outlines several ways Seattle and its regional partners can work together to disrupt organized retail crime.  

Councilmember Herbold will include at her 9:30 am Tuesday Public Safety and Human Services committee key stakeholders to strategize ways to implement the recommendations and alleviate the impacts on local businesses.  

Presenters include representatives from the City Auditor’s Office, Washington Retail Association, Seattle Police Department (SPD), King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.  

“Organized retail crime is one of the biggest contributing factors to disorder in our Downtown core,” said Councilmember Lewis. “Working together with retailers and community leaders we can disrupt these crime rings and build a Downtown that is safe and thriving for all.” 

“This report has a lot to say about what we can be doing differently” said Councilmember Herbold

“Washington Retail is very pleased with the report by the City Auditor’s office on Organized Retail Crime in Seattle, said Renee Sunde, President/CEO, Washington Retail Association. “The Auditor listened carefully to the concerns of retailers and addressed them in this report. We appreciate the work of the Auditor’s office and the leadership of Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Andrew Lewis in securing this important examination of retail crime in Seattle. We look forward to working with the Council and Mayor to implement the ‘seven steps for improving the City’s approach to ORC’ set forth in this report.” 

Report’s recommendations

The report provides seven steps and ten recommendations the City can implement to improve its approach to addressing organized retail theft. They include:  

  1. City collaboration among agencies, including the new Organized Retail Crime Unit in the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. 
  2. Leveraging federal and state crime analysis resources. 
  3. In-custody interviews of “boosters” — people who steal on behalf of fencing operations— should also ask for information on fencing operations. 
  4. Updating antiquated Retail Theft Program with new technology to address ORC. 
  5. Following the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office “prosecution checklist” for organized retail crime cases. 
  6. Using place-based approaches to disrupt unregulated street markets. 
  7. Considering City support of legislation that addresses ORC. 

By the numbers

  • Organized retail crime impacted Seattle the 8th most of any city in the nation in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.  
  • The Washington Retail Association found that, within the past year, more than half of Washington state retailers have reported an increase in theft, resulting in $2.7 billion in losses in the state. 
  • In 2022, there were 13,103 calls to SPD from the top 100 retail locations in the city, the large majority of which were related to retail theft. Responding to those calls cost police officers 18,615 hours of time, which is equivalent to the annual work performed of nine full-time patrol officers. 

These recommendations and more will be discussed during Tuesday’s Public Safety and Human Services Committee at 9:30 AM. Interested reporters are invited to attend in person or watch live via Seattle Channel.