Liquor theft skyrockets; city reports 12% spike in crime

Most stores have anti-theft devices on liquor bottles. - Mirror file photo
Most stores have anti-theft devices on liquor bottles.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

With the privatization of liquor sales in Washington, liquor theft has skyrocketed in the 11 months since the massive change began in the state.

For Federal Way, there’s been an increase of more than 340 percent in liquor theft between the first quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2012, according to Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson.

Wilson told the Federal Way City Council on May 21 that there were 51 incidents in 2013 vs. 15 during the same time period in 2012. He said these numbers may actually be underreported.

“This is a major issue, and it is something that is going to require working with our retailers, and certainly on a state level, in terms of putting initiatives forward to address this,” Wilson said.

Wilson said Federal Way police will try and combat liquor theft by the aforementioned partnering with retailers. Police will focus on enforcement of youth alcohol offenses, and apply pressure at the state level to combat the problem. Mayor Skip Priest said he agrees with Wilson that liquor theft is likely underreported.

“I’m hopeful there will be continued emphasis…to push our legislators (to recognize) the importance of getting this issue of liquor theft under control,” Priest said, adding that liquor theft could become a “tipping point” for more retail theft by young men and women.

Wilson touched on overall crime and a few other areas the city has been focusing on in recent years. Overall crime was up about 12 percent between 2011 and 2012. Overall crime between first quarters of 2013 and 2012 is pretty much static, with 2,212 incidents reported in 2013, compared to 2,220 for 2012. Metal theft continues to be an issue that plagues the city, according to the data.

“Metal theft has been flat in 2012 over 2011. We had 56 incidents in both years,” he said, noting there were three incidents in 2010. “In 2013, for the first quarter, we’ve had 30 incidents.”

Another area that showed increases in first quarter from 2013 to 2012 was weapons offenses, with 23 in the first months of 2013 so far, compared to 12 in the first part of 2012. The police chief noted that weapons offenses include everything from illegal possession of a firearm to having other weapons, like knives or brass knuckles. Wilson said gun purchases and concealed pistol license purchases have increased by 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively.

Wilson said that in 2013, the police department will continue to integrate the use of the SafeCity camera program, continue its push to combat metal thefts, work on trainings for officers and personnel, and look to hire four new officers this year.

Other statistics provided by Federal Way police:

• Residential burglary decreased from 201 incidents in the first quarter of 2012 to 156 in the first quarter of 2013.

• Auto theft went from 158 in the first quarter of 2012 to 152 in the first quarter of 2013.

• Robberies went from 29 in the first quarter of 2012 to 24 in the first quarter of 2013.

• Commercial burglary increased from 33 burglaries in the first quarter of 2012 to 39 for the same time period in 2013.

• Stolen property crimes increased from 29 in the first quarter of 2012 to 38 for the same time period in 2013.

• Theft/larceny increased from 768 in 2012's first quarter to 831 for that same time period in 2013.


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