PORTLAND, Ore. – A Washington state senator wants to make a new law to help stop "flash robs."
One of the key parts of Lakewood, Wash. Republican Sen. Mike Carrell's proposal is electronic messaging. If people are using social media to plan a flash rob, that could help bump the crime to a felony with more serious punishment.
"Flash robbing" is when a group of people (usually teenagers) swarm a store, steal what they can, and quickly leave.
One trick flash robbers use is prepaid phones to message each other so they can't be traced.
Lawmakers in Olympia showed a KATU News story about the subject at their hearing Friday morning in Olympia.
It was a story KATU's investigator, Dan Tilkin, did on a flash rob at a Troutdale Albertsons where forty kids ransacked the place and took off.
Oregon has had many problems with flash robs, but it has yet to become a major problem in Washington.
Carrell says he does not want to wait.
"This is blatant, 'here I am, I'm taking stuff, and there're lots of us,'" Carrell said during the hearing.
The key part of the bill says: If a group of nine or more people steals $250 worth of stuff or more and uses electronic messaging to plan it, it becomes “organized retail theft” and a felony with a more serious punishment.
Right now in Washington, they'd have to steal $750 worth of stuff to make it "organized retail crime."
A group of "flash robbers" struck in Oregon again Thursday evening. Police are trying to find the group who stole $1,000 worth of jeans from the Lloyd Center Macy's.
They say five or six teens grabbed the jeans and ran out through Sears. Police describe the teens as African American.
They got away in a silver SUV with Texas plates.
Marrianne McKay of Salem would like to see tougher laws in Oregon as well. A group swept through her store, Olive Boutique, two years ago and stole $6,000 worth of designer clothes.
"Every criminal that stole from us was fully identified and nothing happened," she said.
Oregon's law is different than Washington's. Right now you'd have to steal $1,000 worth of stuff to make it a felony and there is no special law for groups; however, Multnomah County decided about six months ago to take kids caught in flash robs to the juvenile detention center instead of letting them go home to their parents.