Oregon legislature passes bill to crack down on retail theft

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — A bill aimed at helping police and prosecutors crack down on organized retail theft heads to Governor Tina Kotek’s desk after it passed the Oregon House on Tuesday. Senate Bill 340 passed the Senate last month.

If signed, the new law would make it easier to prosecute organized shoplifters and potentially result in tougher sentences.

“I think the message is that Oregon is paying attention. We’re taking this seriously,” said Amanda Dalton, President of the Northwest Grocery Association.

Senate Bill 340 will add the crime of organized retail theft to the state’s existing law for people who commit repeated property crimes. This will allow for a 24-month prison sentence instead of the current 10 to 11 months.

The proposed new law will also allow prosecutors to try a defendant for all charges against them in one county, when they steal from the same retailer in different counties. Crime rings often hit the same store at multiple locations.

Additionally, SB 340 will give prosecutors more flexibility in charging defendants with organized retail theft when they commit multiple thefts over several months.

“These individuals are organized,” Dalton explained. “They understand that they can target multiple retailers, or different ownership and not be prosecuted under the law, as it exists today. This bill will change that.”

In a series of reports over the past six months, KGW has documented the impact of shoplifting or organized retail crime throughout Portland. Retailers have been forced to hire private security guards, lock down items, change store layouts, reduce hours or simply close their doors.

Nationwide, retailers reported a 26% increase in organized retail crime incidents in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation.

Safeway and Albertson’s reported suffering $15.5 million in losses in eight years, in Multnomah County alone.

The Oregon Organized Retail Crime Task Force, made up of law enforcement, prosecutors, retailers and loss prevention proposed two other bills to combat shoplifting.

Those proposals would provide $5 million for a local grant program that would help cities and counties fight retail theft. The bills would also pay for an analyst and criminal investigators in the Oregon Department of Justice to coordinate with local law enforcement.

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