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CRIME TRACKER: Yakima stores hit hard by alcohol thieves

CRIME TRACKER: Yakima stores hit hard by alcohol thieves
YAKIMA, Wash. -- KIMA's Crime Tracker learned thieves are making off with thousands of dollars in alcohol from Yakima store shelves.

It's a troubling trend that developed after the new alcohol law took effect.

"With the Crown, we've gone to empty boxes," said Wray's Marketfresh owner Chris Brown. "So, when you get to the check stand, you get your bottle."

That's one step stores like Wray's Marketfresh are taking to protect their booze.

"We've been spending a lot of time just training employees. Keep our eyes out on the department," Brown said.

Chris Brown says thieves are still snatching dozens of bottles weekly.

"Talking dollar amounts. What do these thefts do to your bottom line in that regard?" KIMA asked.

"When they start stealing the 175s, most of those are around $40 - $50 apiece and when they get six to eight of them at a time, that puts a big dent in the bottom line," said Brown.

He says he's losing at least $500 a week.

"Most of the thefts have been the brands that you recognize like this Tanqueray, the Jim Beam, the Jack Daniels," said Brown.

It turns out, he's not alone.

Yakima police say thieves recently tried to get away with an entire shopping cart with liquor at this WalMart.

"Would you say this is a growing problem in Yakima?" KIMA asked Yakima police.

"It's a growing problem in Yakima because alcohol is now in every retail outlet, supermarket in town," said Yakima Police Department Captain Rod Light.

Some stores say they're moving away from plastic bottles altogether because they tend to be lighter than the glass bottles; if you drop it, it doesn't break; it makes less noise and it tends to fit in tight places like coats and purses.

Liquor stores we spoke with say they haven't experienced any upticks in thefts but have heard the stories.

"One store in particular actually told me that they've had so much theft they could have actually hired someone at minimum wage to sit there and look at their liquor aisle morning to night," said Union Gap Liquor Store employee Debby Morford.

Police aren't sure whether stolen alcohol is being resold cheaper on the black market to avoid the taxes, but they say it's possible

For now, Chris Brown is doing what he can to make sure any liquor that leaves his store is paid for.

Brown said while alcohol thefts have increased, the number of minors stealing hasn't.

Some stores are considering encasing all of their liquor much like cigarettes sold in stores.

The Liquor Control Board is exploring law changes that would require all alcohol thefts to be reported to the state.

That, after requests from leaders in law enforcement who say there's no real way to get an idea of just how big the problem is.
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