Organized retail thefts climb in Calgary, police warn

Constable Lara Sampson says organized retail theft continues to rise because the penalty for getting caught is much less than other crimes, such as drug trafficking.

Police say criminals realize penalties are less than the drug trade so 'low risk, higher reward'

Clothes, some with the retail tags still on, were part of the stash of stolen goods recovered from homes and southeast storage facilities. (Calgary Police Services)

Organized retail theft in Calgary continues to rise, according to Const. Lara Sampson of the Calgary Police Service's organized retail crime unit.

CPS announced Thursday they had found $1.5 million of stolen goods in homes and in southeast storage facilities.

Sampson told Calgary Eyeopener host David Gray that this case is part of a growing network of organized retail crime where "everyone has a job."

That's locating the property to steal, distracting retail staff, moving the stolen goods out of the store and taking it to a fencing location to exchange it for quick cash.

Sampson says the problem is growing because of word of mouth among criminal networks. 

"What's happening is people are talking to other people in those organizations," she explained.

"The more they get away with it, the more you're going to spread that word ... when people figure out the science of how to do it, there's more people doing it."

Criminal Code lacks teeth, says constable

Sampson added the Criminal Code lacks teeth when it comes to retail theft.

If a suspect is caught with stolen vacuum cleaners for example, they get a piece of paper telling them to attend court, whereas a drug possession charge would result in going to jail and facing a stiffer penalty.

"So that's where you're getting that rise because people are saying, low risk, higher reward," Sampson said.

Sampson said in the coming weeks, the Calgary police will release the names of the retail victims involved in this week's arrest.

The list is long, she noted, and includes big box retailers as well as smaller independent stores.

A 28-year-old Calgary man has been charged with several counts of possessing stolen property over $5,000 and police say more charges are being considered.

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