WASHINGTON — Bakery tray theft, a baking industry problem that had been worsening in recent years, has deteriorated further in recent months, according to the American Bakers Association. "Since January 2009, bakers have noticed a dramatic increase in bakery theft," the A.B.A. said. The group said several companies are instituting new policies, including prosecution when thieves are caught. Organized crime rings are playing a role in tray theft, and in many instances the stolen trays are sold to re-grinders and re-made into plastic containers and other commercial items. The A.B.A. participated in a July 2 meeting with the federal prosecutor’s office in Baltimore about the problem. The state of Maryland a few years ago passed a returnable container law, the A.B.A. noted, encouraging bakers in the state to participate in the Maryland program by registering their containers.