Local stores' remedy to liquor theft

YAKIMA, Wash. -- The side effect of the two-year-old liquor privatization law continues to plague some businesses. They can't hold their alcohol.

When prices increased, so did the amount of liquor being stolen. Some local stores found a way to beat the problem.

"We didn't do a good enough job keeping our eye on it," said Chris Brown, Owner of Wray's Fresh Market.

Watching for liquor thieves is something Wray's Market Fresh doesn't take lightly.
Chris said he learned plenty of lessons since his store began selling liquor almost two years ago.

"They'll take what's easy to get," said Chris.

Denying easy access is the key. Locked cabinets are among the security features that have been installed. Keeping empty liquor boxes on shelves is another method. Paying customers have to ask an employee to get the alcohol.

"We've seen people walk in and walk over here and as soon as they see the doors, they put down the carry basket and out they go so you know they weren't looking to buy," said Chris.

Chris says Ray's has always had cameras looking for criminals. He says that's something that's helped track down some thieves.
But, that wasn't enough when he started selling liquor.

Wray's says in the first six months of being able to sell liquor, $800 to $1,000 worth of alcohol was stolen each week. Now, with more security they say theft is down to about $50 to $100 a month.

"It's in a good spot now," said Chris. "Our goal is always zero but it's hard to get to zero."

"We haven't had any problems with theft," said Tricia Alvarado, manager of Good Spirits.

Tricia said her security is a little different than larger grocery stores.

"With us being a smaller independent store we are able to make contact and visit with everyone who walks in so I think that really helps deter theft," said Tricia.

Tricia doesn't worry about the bottles on the shelves. And Chris is confident his problems in the past are gone.

KIMA reached out to several chain stores here in Yakima to see if they have problems with stolen alcohol. None wanted to be identified, but all said it was a significant problem.