OLYMPIA, Wash. — Thieves trying to rip off The Home Depot store in East Olympia have had a surprise this spring and summer: police waiting for them in the parking lot.
On several occasions since May, Olympia police officers have worked with plain-clothes store employees to identify and arrest potential thieves.
Within one hour in June, three people were either cited for theft or trespassing, accused of planning to steal items.
Officers said one woman removed the anti-theft device off a saw she took out of the store.
“She said she was intending to steal those items to pay for her daughter’s graduation trip,” said Officer Jacob Theis.
Theis said he was surprised how many people were either cited or arrested.
Organized retail theft is a growing problem in Washington.
The Home Depot went to Olympia police asking for help combatting organized retail theft, which is blamed for $2.7 billion in losses statewide in 2021.
Olympia police have also helped Rite-Aid with anti-theft operations.
“Shopping spree without the payments,” said Sgt. Paul Frailey, who heads up the department’s community policing program.
He said the city is happy to help businesses go after thieves.
One woman arrested Monday was accused of driving a stolen car that was full of items believed to have been taken from a Thurston County Lowe’s.
“Sometimes it’s just a couple of dollars of items,” said Frailey, “Sometimes there’s something else at play.”
This summer, Washington state announced the first Organized Retail Crimes Taskforce that will focus on sophisticated, organized crime rings and work to stop them. The task force met for the first time in early July.