State May Require Stores to Report Liquor Thefts; KPD Notes Increase

The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs has asked the State Liquor Control Board to require that businesses report the shoplifting of liquor. Police in Kirkland and elsewhere have noted an increase in liquor thefts since the passage


As our state begins implementing a structure for legal marijuana use, some local law enforcment officials are expressing concern about changes brought by I-1183, the measure that privatized liquor sales in June 2012.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, headed by Mercer Island Police Chief Ed Holmes, has asked the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) to require that private businesses begin reporting liquor thefts at their stores. Holmes outlined the reasons for the request in a letter sent to the board in late 2012 (see attached PDF).


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"As a result (of the passage of I-1183), we believe significant amounts of spirits are being diverted from legitimate sales and unlawfully making their way into the community," Holmes wrote. "This is resulting in increased access to alcohol by youth under 21 years of age, secondary unlawful sales of spirits, loss of legitimate sales tax collection, and an increasing black market focused on theft and resale of spirits."

WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith confirmed the board is considering whether to implement a new rule. Some public testimony has already been collected, he said, including a statement from the Northwest Grocery Association voicing opposition to the idea of required theft reporting. (Patch's attempts to reach the organization for a comment have not been successful.)

The board has just begun gathering information and input on the proposed changes but is taking the request seriously, Smith said.

“Public safety is No. 1," he said. "Anytime you get alcohol in the hands of teenagers and youth, it’s a big concern.”

The liquor board is scheduled to hear additional public testimony on the possiblity of the new reporting rule in late February, Smith said. People can also submit written comments to rules@liq.wa.gov.

Kirkland police have also noted an increase in liquor thefts since the passage of the initiative, but have not specifically been tracking it.

"Obviously we have concerns," said Lt. Mike Murray, Kirkland Police Department spokesman. "There's been an increase, mostly in supermarkets, because it became more readily available to steal."

Murray said one group of two to three women were caught after several thefts at a Kirkland QFC. Kirkland police reports have shown an increase of liquor thefts since last June. For example, Kirkland Patch has reported the following incidents:

  • on Dec. 17 at about 1:30 p.m. stealing bottles of champagne worth more than $400 from the Totem Lake QFC on 124th Street. Store staff reported the theft Dec. 22 after viewing the video. Police took CDs of the video as evidence.
  • Police arrested a 16-year-old Kirkland boy (on May 28) after he was caught stealing $437.89 worth of liquor from the Kingsgate Safeway.
  • Police picked up a 22-year-old Seattle man (on Sept. 23) a few blocks away after he allegedly was seen stealing a bottle of liquor from the Metropolitan Market in Houghton at about 9:10 p.m. He was arrested on a third-degree theft charge.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would put additional restrictions on alcohol sales at self check-out machines. House Bill 1009 calls for an end to sales at self check-out lanes or "system that enables a customer to purchase items with little or no assistance" from a checker.

Jeff Hoerth January 25, 2013 at 07:05 PM
Do we need another law for theft? I thought it is already illegal to steal? More bureaucracy, more paperwork. Gee, wonder if more taxpayer-funded staff will need to be hired? Why not pick up the phone and call, oh, I don't know, any of the 40 other states that allow liquor to be sold in retail stores and see what their experiences have been? Why write a new law and reinvent the wheel when our situation is no different than what other states have experienced for years?
Lise Quinn January 25, 2013 at 10:31 PM
I don't think they're asking for a new law. They aren't even asking them to report it to the police - they are asking that it be reported to the liquor board. This is something most of us knew would happen. It is easier to steal from a grocery store than a liquor store. This shores up what opponents of I-1183 have said all along. Liquor would not be near as controlled in a grocery store than in a liquor store run by the state. Minors would have more access, and the prices will not go down. I think the opponents were right on every point.
Jeff Hoerth January 26, 2013 at 06:21 AM
No, perhaps not a law though the letter doesn't make clear whether to report to WSLCB or the police. Either way, it's mandating more paperwork on businesses when presumably businesses have incentive to put any additional procedures in place if it becomes a big problem. If not a big problem, the business having an occasional theft will have to have the same procedures in place as a business having a larger problem with theft. As I referenced earlier, many other states have long had privatization of liquor sales and still seem to be surviving. How many billions of dollars have been spent on our 30 year War on Drugs because fear-mongers have stirred up emotions? I have yet to read a report that says that War on Drugs yielded results commensurate with the spending. Of course, lots of people made money off that spending and they're quite satisfied. I'm not happy the prices went up but I guarantee they won't go down with more bureaucratic Powerpoint presentations passed along from one supervisor to the next.


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