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New emergency ordinances aim to curb thefts in Issaquah

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This woman who only goes by “Cindy” said she was nearly car jacked in the Target parking lot at Issaquah Commons.

“He just said, 'here’s what’s going to happen,'" Cindy said. "'You’re not going to look at me. You’re going to get in the car and drive me downtown.'"

She managed to get away, but believes this is all related to the recent rise in thefts at big box retailers.

“I think it’s just bringing criminals to the area,” Cindy said.

Councilmember Barbara De Michele said the crooks now feel like they can get away with anything.

“And there are no consequences for people," De Michele said. "That to me just encourages more crimes to happen."

Issaquah interim Police Chief Paula Schwan said some retailers are refusing to press charges even after a shoplifter is arrested.

“We’ve even returned with the suspect and carts of items and the businesses do not want to prosecute," Schwan said at a Tuesday night City Council meeting. "If you don’t have a victim you don’t have a crime.

She did not say which retailers have this hands off policy.

But councilmember Tola Marts said they are having the most issues with Target.

“And we have been trying to work with them and trying to work with them,” Marts said.

So to force their hand, the city council passed two emergency ordinances that take effect immediately. Stores could now face fines if they can’t keep track of their shopping carts.

Authorities said criminals are loading up shopping carts with stolen merchandise from various retailers, bringing it to places like the Issaquah Transit Station, jumping on buses then taking off.

“What we want to do is stop the incentive,” said Mayor Mary Lou Pauly.

The second ordinance said businesses could lose their license to operate if they refuse to report a crime. Pauly said this is about everyone doing their part.

“Call 9-11 and press charges when people steal stuff,” Pauly said.

In response, Target sent us a statement that reads in part: “We’ve added more security team members at the Issaquah store, installed additional security cameras, are working to quickly gather shopping carts that have been taken off our property and are installing a system that will stop carts from leaving the parking lot.”

But the Minnesota based company would not get into specifics about it’s policy on arrests and pressing charges.

“We can’t go and revoke every businesses license because crime is happening in their parking lot,” said Councilmember Chris Reh, who’s concerned about this second ordinance.

Mark Johnson with the Washington Retail Association thinks it’s also just too heavy handed.

“And logistically to call 9-11 if there’s a petty theft that takes place, that’s something the retailer may not have the resources and time to do,” Johnson said.

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The abandoned shopping cart ordinance is pretty much a done deal. But city officials said they wll use the next three months to take public comment on the other ordinance and tighten it up, so it could look slightly different.

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