PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A series of retail theft stings are now underway by Salem law enforcement as they try to stop a growing problem that’s causing some businesses to close their doors.
In a hearing on Senate Bill 340 in the Judiciary Committee Wednesday, law enforcement officers, grocery store representatives and retail lobbyists testified in support of increasing jail time for criminals involved in organized retail theft.
Retail theft rings involve multiple people who engage in frequent theft, and who often resell the stolen property online.
Store videos have captured thieves running out with thousands of dollars in merchandise, and employees are often told to not try and stop them for their own safety – or to call police instead.
Grocery stores are suffering as well: Health and beauty items, pet products, some high-price merchandise has been stolen off the shelves. More items have been placed in locked cases as a result.
Washington County District Attorney Kevin Barton said creating tougher penalties for these rings is only one piece of the solution.
“What it is we need to have is law enforcement whose able to respond, prosecutors who are willing to prosecute. We need courts that are able to convict, and we need jails and prisons that are able to incarcerate. And all of those things need to be present. Sadly, they’re not all present everywhere in Oregon,” Barton said.
There’s a second bill that pulls $5 million in tax money into a fund that cities, counties and the state can all use to help pay for law officers who work overtime to run these sting missions.
The next step for these bills is a senate floor vote. Those wanting to voice an opinion about the bill can contact their state lawmaker.