Shane Harms
Safeway in Ballard where Samira Othman was fired for trying to stop a shoplifter.

Responses roll in after report of woman being fired from Safeway for trying to stop shoplifter

BNT Staff

The recent article about Samira Othman being fired from Safeway for trying to stop a vandal and shoplifter after she had worked there for 12 years stirred the Ballard News-Tribune readership. Comments were posted in the BNT website and others were sent to the office. Overwhelmingly the comments were across the board with support and criticism for Othman and Safeway’s actions. Here are some of the comments the BNT received.

“I worked at the east Madison Safeway between 2011 and 2013 and when the privatized liquor sales was passed on the ballot, the theft became scary. I recall the policy was to tell a manager and then try to have a normal encounter with the suspect and tell them no harm no foul just trying to reclaim the stolen goods. That was until our deli manager tried to stop someone stealing 2 bottles of liquor. She told him he could just set the bottles down and leave and he proceeded to smash one across her head, and take the other one and run. The next day there was flyers all over the break room saying "DO NOT SPEAK TO THE MEDIA". Apparently the former deli manager had done a news report with the local media and was fired for doing so,” write Nathan Davis on the BNT website.

“Sounds like she should put less energy into getting angry at shoplifters and put more into trying to follow directions,” wrote Mark Davis reacting to the article on the BNT website.

Officer Chris Shean of Seattle Police Retail Theft Unit also shared some words:

“Great article about Samira Othman.  Yes, since Albertson’s bought out Safeway, loss prevention there is upside down.  Many stores now are going “hands-off” and the bad guys know it. Bartell’s used to have an aggressive loss prevention crew who made many apprehensions. Now they are also only giving verbal trespass warnings. It’s a real shame.”
 
There was one message sent to the BNT editor that revealed other details about the incidents leading up to Othman being fired and other details about the BNT article. The writer of the article asked to be anonymous.

“First, the "No Touch, No Chase" policy did not change when Albertson's and Safeway merged in 2014. The change came long before that back in the mid 90's when Antonio Jackson died after he was stopped by two Safeway employees well off Safeway property (I believe in Renton) and died of suffocation from being restrained by those employees. Mr. Jackson had stolen a pack of cigarettes.”

“After that incident Safeway completely changed its shoplifter apprehension policy. Only certain store employees were trained to stop shoplifters and we could not touch them AND we could not chase them past the store's entrance/exit thresholds. Once they are past that, it is a "no go" to go after them and we could be suspended and/or terminated for not following this policy. So for 20+ years, that has been the policy in place. While it can be frustrating IT IS for everyone's protection.”

“Ms. Othman was warned numerous times by many employees, most of them held higher positions than her in the store, that she could not touch or chase shoplifters.  Knowing how Safeway has its employees sign most policies and procedures yearly, Ms. Othman more than likely signed off on the shoplifter policy more than once,possibly 11-12 times and to the best of my knowledge was never officially authorized to stop shoplifters.”  

“Ms. Othman's physical confrontations with shoplifters not only put herself in danger, but also risked the safety of her fellow employees. While pepper spray can be used as protection, it can also be considered a weapon, which is very much against documented Safeway policies.”

“But also to blame is Ballard Safeway's store manager, who basically turned a blind eye and condoned Ms. Othman's actions. Only when confronted about situations did he "do" something about it. Usually in the form of telling her to be careful or to take it easy. So he is as much to blame for her firing as she is, because he never took appropriate actions based on policies and procedures.”

“And Safeway is to blame. Shoplifting is a huge problem at Ballard Safeway, and Safeway has taken basically little to no action to reduce it. Yes, they may have security guards during the evening hours, and they may have the occasional undercover loss prevention agent, but it is not enough and generally the guards and undercover's spend more time screwing around than actually doing apprehension. The store should be closed from at least from 12am - 6am, when it's at its most vulnerable. They could also do things like move the alcohol to the center of the store so it's not a straight shot from the liquor department to the north doors.”

“Ms. Othman WAS a good worker. I understand the frustration of seeing and knowing that you are being ripped off. But Ms. Othman was made aware of Safeway policy and procedure many, many times and chose not to abide by it. Again her actions not only put her own safety in danger but also the safety of her fellow employees and potentially her customers was at risk. There is absolutely nothing in that store worth injury or worse.”

For a chance to share your thoughts on the issue read and comment on the original story online at Ballardnewstribune.com or send comments to shaneh@robinsonnews.com.

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