Seattle Culture

Retail Crime in Washington the Worst in U.S.

Forbes Advisor report finds that retailers here are ‘most impacted’

By Rob Smith November 21, 2023

Retail theft is particularly troublesome in Washington state.

A few years ago, a thief brazenly used a pair of bolt cutters to snip the wires securing several high-end purses at the former Macy’s department store in downtown Seattle. He then calmly left the store.

Retail theft remains a driver of numerous store closures throughout the city — Target and Bartell Drugs are two recent examples. Now, a Forbes Advisor Report finds that retail crime across Washington state is the worst in the country. Retail theft here is 48% higher than the national average, and the value of stolen goods equates to $347 per resident, twice that of the national average.

The study analyzed six metrics, including retail theft relative to population, the value of stolen goods, and larceny-theft rates. Nationwide, small-business retailers are disproportionately affected — a staggering 75% say they experience theft at least on a monthly basis.

A majority of small-business owners (56%) also say they anticipate theft during the holiday season.

Last February, Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson formed an organized retail crime task force, and a July report from the Seattle City Auditor’s Office said the city could do more to tackle organized retail crime. Potential solutions included city participation in collaboration with other organizations fighting retail crime; leveraging state and federal crime analysis resources; and targeting open-air, unregulated street markets.

The report says: “Given the city’s current resource constraints, especially for Seattle Police Department, our recommendations largely focus on leveraging new and existing collaborations, using existing expertise and resources, and exploring new technologies.”

The Washington Retail Federation says retail theft totaled $2.7 billion statewide the past year.

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