Washington State Legislation Aims to Make it More Difficult to Shoplift

A bill in the Washington State House seeks to deter would-be shoplifters.

A bill in the Washington State House seeks to deter would-be shoplifters. Shutterstock


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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Hawaii legislature calls for reconciliation with Native Hawaiians … Long Beach City Council wants more control hiring and firing city employees … Democrats in Maryland say they won’t pass gun bill with mandatory minimums.

A bill in the Washington State House seeks to deter would-be shoplifters by allowing store employees to intervene before merchandise leaves the store. Businesses in the state have been asking the state legislature to act in recent years as shoplifting rates rise. The threshold for felony theft, which would cause a shoplifter to spend time in jail, is $750, but retailers say that usually cases don’t get prosecuted unless they’re in the tens of thousands of dollars. A new bill before the state legislature would allow employees, private security, or police officers to stop a suspected shoplifter while they’re in the store, instead of waiting for them to leave, as is currently required by state law. “If someone is pushing a shopping cart full of stolen merchandise out of the store, I would hope we'd be able to stop them before they get out of the store. We want to amend the definition of theft to allow for intervention in the store, for what we called concealment, where someone clearly showed the intent to steal the merchandise," said state Rep. Roger Goodman, a Democrat who is sponsoring the bill for the third time. Previous attempts to pass the bill failed. The bill’s co-sponsor, Republican Rep. Dan Griffey, said that racial or other kinds of profiling is a major concern. Griffey wants to see an amendment that would instruct the Department of Commerce to develop implicit bias training guidelines for retailers. "We need to make sure we are profiling the people's activities, that is the thievery, not any other thing," Griffey said. States like Montana have also passed measures recently to crack down on shoplifting. Other states, like Illinois, have attempted to relax their shoplifting punishments, which some call overly harsh. Illinois is one of six states where people can go to jail as long as five years for shoplifting items worth $500 or less. [KOMO]

NATIVE HAWAIIANS | A Hawaii state legislative panel passed a resolution calling for the governor to convene a reconciliation commission with leaders of the Native Hawaiian community. The move comes after indigenous protesters blocked the construction of what would have been one of the world’s largest telescopes on Mauna Kea, a mountain site considered sacred in Native Hawaiian culture. State Rep. Ryan Yamane, a Democrat, said the goal of the commission is to “foster more dialogue, to bring a sense of opportunity for people to talk and maybe address some of the past wrongs.” Ilima Long, a leader of the movement blocking the telescope construction, said that the panel seemed to be trying to find a way to suppress opposition to the telescope. “It’s totally flawed already. It’s going to be really difficult to gain the trust of the Native Hawaiian community. I know I don’t trust it already,” she said. Native Hawaiian elder Walter Ritte said the governor should meet directly with protesters instead. “The Hawaiians have been through this process many times and have come out the losers. Every time you form some kind of a committee, people count votes before they even start and you know the results that’s going to happen before it ends. So there is no trust,” Ritte said. [Hawaii Tribune-Herald; Honolulu Civil Beat]

HIRING AND FIRING | The city council in Long Beach, California, is considering a measure to give themselves the powers to hire and fire top city employees. Right now, the city manager has the power to hire and fire the city treasurer, corporate counsel, comptroller, as well as the commissioners of the police and fire departments. The city council last week held a hearing to amend the city’s charter and give the counsel power over executive appointees. “Instead of being held captive by the city manager, who makes decisions without the City Council, [they] will have to report to us now,” said council vice president Karen McInnis. Some residents raised concerns that the city council would micromanage the rest of the government.[NewsDay]

CRIME BILL | Democrats in Maryland say they don’t expect to pass a bill pushed by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to toughen penalties for people convicted of gun offenses. The bill would create six new mandatory minimum sentences for gun offenders. “If they don’t pass the bill, people are going to continue to die. People are going to get shot every day in Baltimore City,” Hogan said. But Democrats, including Sen. William C. Smith Jr., said they won’t vote for a bill with mandatory minimums. “I’m not interested in moving a bill with draconian mandatory minimums absent any hard evidence such measures would improve the security proposition in Baltimore City or the rest of the state,” Smith said. [Baltimore Sun]

COLLEGE SPEAKERS | A bill in Arizona would require colleges to host speakers with opposing views at events. The legislation would also mandate that universities send a calendar of events to the governor, state Senate, House, and Secretary of State. [KOLD]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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