Why Portland is failing: Multnomah County prosecutes less than half of misdemeanor theft cases

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New data shows Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt is prosecuting less than half of all misdemeanor theft cases sent to his office by police.

“When there’s not prosecution for shoplifting — that’s a big problem,” said Steven Lien, owner of retail store UnderU4men in downtown Portland.

The numbers come at a time when Portland business owners complain retail theft has risen to new levels. Shoplifting has become more frequent and brazen.

A KGW investigation found thieves stealing armloads of merchandise and walking right out the front door with no fear of being caught. The rampant theft has driven some stores to close or reduce their hours.

“We have situations where a shoplifter will actually say, ‘You’re not going to prosecute me. I’m not going to jail,” Lien said.

So far in 2022, prosecutors in Multnomah County are prosecuting 46% of theft cases involving less than $1,000 in goods. That’s compared to an 84% prosecution rate in Clackamas County, and a 93% prosecution rate in Washington County for the same crimes, according to data provided by all three offices.

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