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Repeat shoplifters continue plaguing Seattle businesses, sometimes with violence – KIRO Seattle

Repeat shoplifters are plaguing downtown businesses. In one case this week at Uwajamaya — the Asian grocery store in Seattle’s Chinatown International District — the suspect got out a knife, leading to a struggle with two employees and a customer.

This case escalated to robbery charges. 

Charging documents say, “the facts of this case showcase the chilling actions of violence in public.” 

The suspect, Joshua William Graham, was trespassed at the store for at least one previous shoplifting incident. 

This time, when a loss prevention employee tried to stop the suspect, the suspect “chose to remove a 4″ knife and not just instill fear – but attempted to use it against employees,” the court documents said. 

As two employees struggled to prevent the defendant from stabbing them, a Good Samaritan held down the suspect’s hand and pulled the knife away. 

“Let go of the knife!” you can hear an employee say as they struggle. 

“If you’re caught stealing and nothing happens to you, and you’re not concerned about your future, you just do it more and more. Whatever you want to do. Certainly we’re seeing that,” said Alann Hamada, the Uwajimaya store director.

He said that escalate into violence are pretty rare, ,but that shoplifting is a daily story.

KIRO7 filed a public disclosure request and learned between January 2017 and September 2018, Uwajimaya filed 599 property crime cases with Seattle police, plus two robbery cases.

It’s among the downtown businesses that report the most cases of shoplifting.

“Extremely frustrating,” Hamada said.

Prolific shoplifting forcing a store to close — that’s exactly what happening to the  Bartell’s Drugs at 3rd and Union.

Bartell’s confirmed on Friday that it’s closing that location before their lease is even over.

But the drugstore said the theft and need for constant security means it would cost less to pay rent on an empty building, than it would to run the business.

Uwajimaya says it’s not there — at least not yet.

“Does it worry you it could become unsustainable to be here?” KIRO7’s Deedee Sun asked.

“Oh certainly. You worry about public safety, and you worry about your business. And we have very small margins, so when theft goes up, that affects the bottom line,” Hamada said.

Uwajimaya and other businesses are continuing to ask the city for better solutions on  holding repeat offenders accountable.

Graham, the suspect, was in the King County Jail Friday night on $250,000 bail.

He was arrested and released three times so far in 2019 prior to this latest case.


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