Liquor store theft rate 'high as its ever been': Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries says, despite its efforts to keep illegal activity in check, the rate of theft and robberies at liquor stores in Winnipeg is "as high as it's ever been."

"We are shocked to see brazen acts of theft occurring so openly all over the city," the corporation says

Numbers provided by MLL showed in 2017, there were approximately 658 theft incidents in Manitoba Liquor Marts reported to Winnipeg Police. In 2018, the number jumped to 2,602. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries says despite its efforts to keep illegal activity in check, the rate of thefts and robberies at liquor stores in Winnipeg is "as high as it's ever been."

The Crown corporation implemented new initiatives in March of this year to help curb theft from its liquor stores, but said in a release Sunday that people are brazenly stealing in spite of these changes.

Andrea Kowal, the director of corporate and public affairs said in a statement, "We've witnessed thieves openly steal product despite the presence of uniformed special duty constables on the sales floor. Thieves often become violent when confronted by requests for ID, or with ill-advised attempts by security, staff or customers trying block their entry and exit."

Earlier this week, five teenage girls were arrested after Winnipeg police say they attempted to steal bottles of liquor from a liquor mart.

Five teenage girls were charged with theft under $5,000. (XFLAllStar/Reddit)

Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver told CBC News police arrived at the Tyndall Market Liquor Mart on Keewatin Street at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday, just in time to catch the thieves in the act.

The five teens were charged at the scene with theft under $5,000. Some of the product was recovered, but Carver wasn't able to say how much of it, or how much it was worth.

A video, posted to Reddit by a user on Friday, appears to show a group of girls wearing hoodies pulling bottles of liquor off the shelves of a Liquor Mart, identified in the video's title as the Tyndall Market store, and putting them in bags. Carver confirmed police are aware of the video.

Kowal said in a statement the event was shocking.

"Like all Winnipeggers, we are shocked to see brazen acts of theft occurring so openly all over the city. These events are traumatic and take an emotional toll when witnessed by employees and customers," she said.

Curbing shoplifting at liquor stores

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries provided theft statistics in a previous release.

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. By May, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries said theft and robbery incidents had dropped 23 per cent.

It also said there was a 55 per cent drop in bottle theft, and a 20 per cent increase in the number of arrests following the new measures.

The corporation's security push included putting loss-prevention officers in stores during peak times, 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.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries said it's consulting with police, security experts and other retailers to learn how best to curb thefts. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

But despite these initiatives, product is still being stolen.

"The rate of theft is as high as it's every been," the corporation said.

"Cannot fix this issue on our own"

Kowal said Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries is investigating the best way to proceed.

"We are still implementing additional measures in an attempt to affect some notable change in the number of incidents. We continue to consult with law enforcement, other retailers and security experts and we will not stop exploring every option," she said.

"The safety of our employees and customers remains our number one concern."


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