It’s good to see that Walla Walla’s two Safeway grocery stores — Plaza Way and Rose Street — are making it a lot tougher to steal liquor.
This, of course, was a business decision as the loss of expensive items such as bottles of gin, tequila and rum cut into Safeway’s profits.
But this move is also good for society. The explosion of liquor thefts since it became legal to sell booze in privately owned stores has resulted in a lot of alcohol getting into the hands of minors.
Last year, in the first six months of private liquor sales, local law enforcement estimates a 175 percent increase in shoplifting liquor. The two Safeway stores have been popular targets for thieves.
Walla Walla Police Department spokesman Tim Bennett said Safeway is now putting the booze behind locked doors.
“Safeway is a responsible community member that saw a problem and took appropriate actions,” he said.
Sadly, the problem looks to be relatively minor in the Walla Walla Valley compared to other parts of the state. Thefts in the Seattle area have been referred to as “an epidemic.”
Bennett said that among Safeway’s more than 165 regional stores, Walla Walla’s losses “weren’t even a blip on the radar as far as the level of theft goes.
“ ... To me that just magnifies how big a problem for safety this is,” he said.
While Safeway’s new lock-and-key policy is welcome, just as it has been in stores such as Harvest Foods since booze sales first went private, thieves are going to move on to stores with less security.
Perhaps as booze hounds seeking the five-finger discount look elsewhere for their hooch, other stores will follow Safeway’s lead.
Something has got to be done. Tighter security is an important step.
In addition, the state Liquor Control Board should require — as the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs has suggested — retailers to keep detailed records of theft.
A record requirement is a solid idea, as long as it is structured so it won’t create a burden for retailers. The information could also be useful in tweaking the law on liquor sales to further prevent thefts.
Liquor thefts, particularly by minors, must continue to be reduced.