State's top cops asking liquor sellers for better theft figures

SEATTLE -- Liquor privatization has made it easier for customers to buy alcohol in Washington, but it's also made it easier for thieves to steal booze.

Liquor theft has plagued retailers since the new law went into effect in June, and now the state's top cops are asking store owners to keep better tabs on exactly how much booze is being stolen.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs recently sent a letter to the Liquor Control Board asking for more information about liquor theft. The association says with more accurate information they can do more to help stem the problem.

"Info is power, and the more info we have the more knowledge we have of ways to attack the problem," said Sgt. Cindi West of the King County sheriff's office.

On Wednesday, the Liquor Control Board will begin collecting public comment on a proposed rule to require retailers to report their theft numbers to the state, but not everyone in the industry thinks that's such good idea.

Wine and Spirit World owner David LeClaire is worried the proposed rule would add more costly paperwork and possibly make stores even more vulnerable to theft.

"They're saying we want to know, but the stores don't want everybody to know, because then they think they're just going to be an easier target to hit," LeClaire said.

Police say they just want to know exactly how big the problem really is. They're especially worried about underage drinking and a potential black market of stolen liquor, which could cut into the state's share of taxes.

Everyone admits there's a problem, but some sellers aren't convinced the proposed rule will help.

"Everything always sounds good on paper until you try to apply it," LeClaire said.

Representatives from several large grocery store chains refused to comment on the story. The Liquor Control Board is scheduled to vote on whatever rule it comes up with in early March.