Serving Franklin County, WA

Crimes increase while student learning decreases

It’s no secret that crime has worsened throughout Washington in recent years, thanks to laws passed by the Democrat-controlled Legislature and a decrease in the number of law-enforcement officers in many communities.

While we’ve seen a spike in many areas of crime, retail theft and other retail crimes are especially a problem.

Retail crimes hurt not only stores and shops, but also consumers because these crimes force retailers to raise prices. The Legislature, the governor and the attorney general need to take action to greatly reduce retail crime in Washington.

From 2019-20, the value of goods stolen from Washington stores more than doubled. The Washington Retail Association estimates organized crime groups stole $2.7 billion from retailers in 2021.

Retailers have been forced to endure an increase in crimes occurring on their property, including theft and fraud.

Organized retail-theft rings have become more brazen, violent and sophisticated in targeting stores. They are putting the safety of customers and store employees in danger. Also, they’re often involved in other crimes within communities, including human trafficking, money laundering and narcotics.

These theft rings go after not only stores and shops in big cities but also those in small towns. It’s a growing problem in many parts of our state and the U.S.

Retail crimes, especially theft, have become so much worse in recent years that the Washington Retail Association just released a retail-crimes resource guide for its members. To me, that says the state isn’t providing enough help for retailers and local and state law enforcement agencies don’t have enough officers to effectively combat retail theft.

A national report on the impact of organized retail crime showed that Washington retailers lost just over $2.7 billion worth of goods and products due to theft in 2021, and that the per capita amount of stolen items in the state is $376.61, which ranks Washington second in the nation, only behind Pennsylvania ($436.25).

Survey data from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce show that 56% of small retailers say they have experienced theft in the past year, with 46% being forced to increase their prices as a result.

According to the 2021 state crime report released by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, 23,323 shoplifting cases were reported last year.

Last year, Seattle ranked eighth among large cities affected by organized retail crime.

Student learning declines

In addition to retain crime, something needs to be done to improve education.

On Monday, state scores from the National Association for Educational Progress test were released.

This is a test given every two years to fourth- and eighth-graders throughout the U.S. in reading and math. Washington has taken part in the NAEP since the mid-1990s.

This year’s results are less than encouraging for our state. This year saw the lowest test scores in our state since the test began here in the ‘90s.

In fourth grade, students’ 2022 score was the lowest since Washington students first took the test back in 1996 (math) and 1994 (reading). In eighth grade, Washington students’ 2022 score was the lowest ever recorded in both math and reading.

This year’s results also show that the percentage of Washington students who scored below “basic” is high. The NAEP test groups scores at “below basic,” “basic,” “advanced” and “proficient.”

In reading, 39% of Washington fourth-graders and 29% of eigth-graders in our state tested this year at “below basic.” In math, 26% of fourth-graders and 36% of eighth-graders in Washington tested this year at “below basic.”

For the last 10 years, students’ scores in Washington have been going downhill.

In 2013, Washington’s NAEP scores reached a peak, both in raw scores and comparatively. But fourth-grade scores have declined in math and reading in every test cycle since then. Eighth-grade scores essentially held steady from the 2013 level through the 2017 test, but have fallen notably in both 2019 and 2022.

This year’s lower scores are a clear sign the COVID-19 upheaval that resulted in fewer days of school and forced remote learning hurt many students across the state, including those who took the NAEP this year.

- Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, represents the 9th Legislative District. Email him at [email protected].


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