Manitoba

23% drop in thefts shows strategy to curb shoplifting working: Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries

New security measures to stop thieves from making off with alcohol are working, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries says.

Anti-theft strategy introduced in March to address spike in theft at Liquor Marts

Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries announced new security measures to curb theft, including bottle locks, on March 21, 2019. (Warren Kay/CBC)

New security measures to stop thieves from making off with alcohol are working, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries says.

The Crown corporation says theft and robbery incidents have dropped 23 per cent since it implemented new initiatives in March to curb stealing from its liquor stores, according to a statement on Thursday.

There has also been a 55 per cent drop in the cost to Manitoba Liquor Marts of bottle theft, and a 20 per cent increase in the number of arrests, the news release said.

Liquor & Lotteries did not immediately provide specifics on the number of incidents it used to determine the percentages.

Surge in liquor thefts

"While these are still early results, we are cautiously optimistic they are trending in the right direction," Liquor & Lotteries president Peter Hak said in the Thursday news release.

A rash of thefts and robberies in Manitoba Liquor Marts has been widely reported in the media in recent months.

In 2017, there were approximately 658 thefts in Manitoba Liquor Marts reported to Winnipeg police. In 2018, the number jumped to 2,602 — a spike of nearly 300 per cent.

Some high-value bottles are no longer kept on the shelves at Manitoba Liquor Marts. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

The corporation lost roughly $800,000 worth of product last year as a result of what's referred to in the retail industry as "shrinkage" — a loss of inventory due to factors like theft.

The theft incidents also raised concerns about staff safety.

On Thursday, the Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union praised Liquor & Lotteries for "implementing many of the security upgrades our members lobbied for," but said further steps to prevent violence against staff may be needed.

"Although thefts at our liquor marts are trending down, violence continues to be a problem," MGEU said in an emailed statement. 

"Recently, an employee was carding a group of minors when one lashed out and kicked him in the leg. She then punched another employee in the face, breaking their glasses."

More security measures may be introduced in the coming weeks and months, Hak said.

The corporation's new security push has put new loss prevention officers — trained to catch thieves after they've left stores, using citizens' powers of arrest to hold them until police arrive — in stores during peak times.

Other efforts have included checking customers' ID at the front door of Liquor Marts, using bottle locks and lockable shelf cases, and requiring customers to ask staff for high-value bottles.

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