Pilot program put police in Winnipeg Liquor Marts to deter thefts

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries says it's working with Winnipeg Police in an effort to curb liquor store thefts in the city.

But Liquor and Lotteries won't say if program will continue, citing security concerns

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries won't say if using special duty officers in stores will be an ongoing initiative. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries quietly hired Winnipeg police officers to help curb liquor mart thefts last weekend, but is keeping any plans to do it again under wraps. 

"We continue to work closely with the WPS to explore every avenue possible to deter thefts at Liquor Marts," said an MLL spokesperson in a written statement to CBC News.  "This past weekend we engaged some of these special duty officers at some Liquor Mart locations."

Still, MLL won't say if using special duty officers in stores will be an ongoing initiative. 

A spokesperson wrote that sharing information about security and anti-theft measures could put staff and customers at risk. 

Last September, the Manitoba Government and General Employees Union said it was eager to find a solution that would help keep staff and customers protected following a string of liquor mart thefts. 

Recent numbers provided by the MLL showed 2017,  there were approximately 658 theft incidents in Manitoba Liquor Marts reported to WPS. In 2018, the number jumped to 2,602.

Michelle Gawronsky, MGEU president, said the recent move is an important step forward in increasing safety for staff and people shopping in stores.

'Constantly on the alert'

"It is the beginning and we look forward to working with management, with the MLLC to ensure they're coming up with safety protocols that can be put in place permanently," she said.

Gawronsky said the "brazen" thefts have continued to be an issue in liquor stores in recent months. She said that affects employees physically, mentally and emotionally.

"They're constantly on the alert and watching," said Gawronsky. 

According to Winnipeg police, special duty officers are not on regular duty and can be contracted through WPS by a business or organization for any event that is basically public. A spokesperson for police said the officers are in full uniform and duties include law enforcement, crowd control, and security. 

Police said the agency contracting the special duty officers pays the bill.

Winnipeg Police Association president Maurice Sabourin said liquor store thefts are a common problem and police officers have the training to help address the issue.

"People are going into liquor stores and just grabbing bottles and running out and I think they are well aware that security guards don't typically intervene," said Sabourin. "So having a police officer that is specially trained and has all the tools at their disposal is likely a very good deterrent for this type of situation." 


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