This is the most important news article you will read this year on the topic of Crime in Seattle.

The Retail Theft Program is the reason “Seattle is Dying”

This is the only article or study or investigation or even mention beyond noting that the program merely exists.

There has never been a news article or tv news story about the Retail Theft Program.

This is why “Seattle is Dying”

So here we go – Seattle and The Retail Theft Program…………

It is either another example of Seattle being on the leading edge of creativity. They have spearheaded many progressive solutions in public policy that many other cities then copied after seeing the success achieved here.

At the time the Retail Theft Program was set up, it was the first of its kind. Nowhere in the United States had a similar program or contract in place.

It was 1989 that the Police and city of Seattle signed a contract with the retail stores in the city. The contract made it so the police would give up all the power and rights to arrest and help prosecute shoplifting and retail theft. Now the stores and the security and loss prevention would be in charge of stopping the crime in the stores, every aspect of it – with absolutely no help from the cops – in any way shape or form – no matter what – everytime.

Its been 30 years since the contract started and we are still the only city in the country that operates in this way. Maybe it is because the Retail Theft Program isn’t the best solution for shoplifting.

Fast forward to now – There are alot of anger and frustrated ideas within our community – people want to know why nothing is being done about the retail thefts and other misdemeanor crimes being committed by the same people, over and over, seemingly without any consequence. Stores are arresting shoplifters and yet the next day they are seen back in stores and when they are presented in court – hundreds and thousands of cases do not have charges filed – the cases are often just thrown out.

So much misinformation and misunderstanding. Let me try and clear up alot of these negative perceptions about the city, the police, and the city attorney, because it turns out, the city attorney has done everything right the entire time as far as doing everything he could possibly do to fight and prosecute criminals and cases.

The thing is, nobody is refusing to jail criminals. They wish they could jail theft cases that are sent to them but they cant because the cases are poorly put together. Bad or no evidence, incorrect information or missing information – those cases cannot be pursued because the will be dismissed by the judge and thrown out eventually so why waste any time on them.


Retail theft program, to summarize briefly, but you should read about it on SPD website, its a contract between the city and almost every retail store in Seattle and it gives special privileges to stores to prevent shoplifting with the same authority as the police, with the understanding that SPD would no longer be involved in shoplifting/theft in Seattle retail stores.

It was supposed to be a win win situation. The police could focus on other areas of the city and thereby making better use of resources, and the stores could better prevent and fight shoplifting by not having to wait for SPD to show, which often allowed to shoplifter to get away before they arrived.

However the program has few checks and balances and something is obviously not working. The evidence for this is the thousands of rejected cases that are a result of the city attorney having no other option. When the quality of the case is particularly poor or is missing vital information such as evidence or a correct last name, successful prosecution is impossible and would be a waste of resources to try and pursue.

The city attorney has responded to much criticism for not filing chargers on such a high percentage of cases and he says it is directly related to the poorly constructed cases coming from the security and loss prevention.

That may be, but the CEO’s of some of these companies are continuing to vent through the media and not showing any understand of how the program works or why so many cases are being rejected. They are utterly frustrated but utterly confused who or how they are responsible for the failed cases they have been submitting.

Anyways, the misdemeanor crimes that aren’t being prosecuted are the primarily theft cases. There are more theft cases sent to to the city attorney than cases for any other crime.
All theft cases are 100 percent the responsibility of the loss prevention and security guards in Seattle Retail stores. There is no police officer involvement whatsoever, the stores security and LP’s are the ones investigating, gathering evidence, arresting, and issuing citations with notice to appear. The cases are built without any police assistance and it is these creations that are presented to the city attorney – and the city attorney – then chooses to either – press charges – or not press charges.

These retail theft cases are not able to be prosecuted because the security guards and loss prevention officers are not very good at there jobs. They don’t know what the are doing. And the retail stores often don’t know what these security and loss prevention are supposed to be doing either.

Security and loss prevention officers have minimal training, usually just 8 hours prior to being assigned to work in one of the many retail stores in Seattle. Almost always, there is little to no oversight from store management or Seattle Police. There is only one Seattle Police Officer representing the entire Retail Theft Program and acting as a liaison if any questions or issues arise. Its likely that nobody involved in this Retail Theft Program knows how it works except for the one officer ho represents the Seattle Police in any business or relations that need it.

I spoke with a manager at a major retailer on 3rd avenue and he didn’t even know his store belonged to the retail theft program. How can that manager manage his employees to do there jobs if he doesn’t know what his employees are even supposed to be doing.

Where is the oversight? How is compliance monitored? Without oversight and supervision of the security and LP’s, who are acting as police. They have been given all the powers that the police have in the realm of retail theft, so they are the same thing as police as far as I can ascertain. If they have all the same abilities and right then they are cops is how I look at things. As far as shoplifting is concerned, then of course the criminals will keep getting away with theft and shoplifting.

How are the homeless paying for there drugs? Shoplifting is what is fueling all of this. Shoplifting is easy and so that makes the addiction easy.

Retail is the enabler of homeless drug addiction. Without an enabler an addicts life is difficult. Keeping the addiction going is difficult without an enabler. Stop enabling an addict and the will stop doing the drug.

The stores are enablers. Hiring security with more experience and training. Work with them and with Seattle Police Department to learn how to build cases that have what is necessary for a successful prosecution. Stop blaming everything but yourselves.

You can blame the homeless for shoplifting but the solution to actually stopping and preventing shoplifting belongs to the stores. Its time for retail to take responsibility for what goes on on there own property .

If the businesses and retail stores refuse to stop shoplifting inside there establishments, then who is going to protect us from bully businesses.

How much money would it cost to give more training to the employees responsible for stopping these retail thefts? Maybe the program is entirely broken and c ant be salvaged? Could need to just be replaced with a brand new program that can be put together effectively, starting from the ground on up.

Please spread the word about the Retail Theft Program. Its required reading to have productive discussion about many issues and problems in Seattle.

The only solution to Seattle’s homelessness is fix retail. No other ideas exist that are actually possible. Retail is the only solution to ending homelessness in Seattle. The only solution that is on the table is to fix retail theft program.

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