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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.