Liquor thefts are up in Bellevue since liquor became widely available in stores following the passage of Initiative 1183, according to Bellevue Police Department statistics.
Nearly five times as many incidents of liquor theft were reported in the first seven months of the new Washington liquor sales laws, which went into effect June 1, 2012, than during the same time period the year before, according to Bellevue statistics.
The voter-approved initiative closed the state run liquor stores that had a monopoly on hard liquor sales in Washington and made spirits widely available in most grocery stores. Large retail stores that specialize in alcohol also have moved to the state after the law's passage, including Beverages and More and Total Wine and More in Bellevue.
6/1/12 to 1/25/13
6/1/11 to 1/25/12
Stolen $ Amount
Cases Closed Adult Arrest
Cases Closed Juvenile Arrest
Some law enforcment officials expressed concern about changes brought by I-1183, the measure that privatized liquor sales in June 2012.
The Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs, headed by Mercer Island Police Chief Ed Holmes, has asked the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) to require that private businesses begin reporting liquor thefts at their stores. Holmes outlined the reasons for the request in a letter sent to the board in late 2012 (see attached PDF).
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"As a result (of the passage of I-1183), we believe significant amounts of spirits are being diverted from legitimate sales and unlawfully making their way into the community," Holmes wrote. "This is resulting in increased access to alcohol by youth under 21 years of age, secondary unlawful sales of spirits, loss of legitimate sales tax collection, and an increasing black market focused on theft and resale of spirits."
WSLCB spokesman Brian Smith confirmed the board is considering whether to implement a new rule. Some public testimony has already been collected, he said, including a statement from the Northwest Grocery Association voicing opposition to the idea of required theft reporting. (Patch's attempts to reach the organization for a comment have not been successful.)
The board has just begun gathering information and input on the proposed changes but is taking the request seriously, Smith said.
“Public safety is No. 1," he said. "Anytime you get alcohol in the hands of teenagers and youth, it’s a big concern.”
The liquor board is scheduled to hear additional public testimony on the possiblity of the new reporting rule in late February, Smith said. People can also submit written comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would put additional restrictions on alcohol sales at self check-out machines. House Bill 1009 calls for an end to sales at self check-out lanes or "system that enables a customer to purchase items with little or no assistance" from a checker.