Nova Scotia·CBC Investigates

Captain Morgan is precious booty to Nova Scotia liquor thieves

More than $40,000 worth of product stolen off NSLC shelves last year, according to liquor corporation.

More than $40,000 in alcohol plundered from NSLC retail stores in 2015, including popular rum

Last year the NSLC logged 240 bottles of Captain Morgan rum stolen across the province. (CBC)

The gleam of Captain Morgan rum is irresistible to Nova Scotia liquor thieves. 

"I would say there's probably a combination of factors," said Denise Corra, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Liquor Corp. 

"It's easily saleable if you were going to sell it. But it's also a very popular, well-known brand — something that people are very, very familiar with."

Nova Scotia Investigates analyzed a database of alcohol stolen from NSLC retail stores last year. 

Captain Morgan rum is one thieves in Nova Scotia target most often. (CBC)

Over that period, the corporation logged 1,422 thefts worth $40,580.

That included 240 bottles of Captain Morgan rum, 192 bottles of Smirnoff Red vodka and 55 cases of Budweiser lager, ranging from six-packs to flats of 24. 

By dollar value, vodka, rum and rye make up nearly three-quarters of thefts. 

Beer comes in fourth place, representing nearly nine per cent of the total. 

In 2015, thieves stole more than $13,000 in vodka from NSLCs across the province. (CBC)

Halifax's West End Mall most targeted

Corra said it's impossible to say for certain what motivates a particular thief. But she said spirits are often stolen for their resale value, sometimes by organized teams.   

"It's not just the individual who's coming in to perpetrate theft, it's sometimes folks who are working in tandem with others," she said. 

The most expensive theft last year was a bottle of Loki 15-year-old single-malt scotch by Highland Park. 

Corra said the bottle, worth $299, was likely snatched as a crime of opportunity rather than by seasoned shoplifters. 

Thefts took place at 64 of the NSLC's 103 retail stores.

The most pilfered store was in Halifax's West End Mall, with losses of $3,075. 

The NSLC in Fall River only lost a single pint of Captain Morgan white rum worth $16.29.

Stores designed with anti-theft in mind

Corra said the NSLC's theft rate is far below the Canadian retail average of 1.4 to 1.9 per cent of sales. She credits a combination of store design and staff training. 

"Thieves want to be anonymous. So in our stores you're generally approached within two minutes of the time you enter," she said. 

The design of new stores also helps deter theft, including wide aisles and low shelving that's not higher than a customer's waist. 

"All of those things maximize the chance that you're going to encounter somebody when you visit our stores. That you're going to talk to one of our staff members, or encounter another customer," she said. 

Corra said roughly six people are prosecuted each month for stealing from the NSLC, which recorded total sales of $591 million in the 2014-15 fiscal year, and $607 million in 2015-16.

NSLC spokeswoman Denise Corra said it's impossible to say for certain what motivates a particular thief. But she said spirits are often stolen for their resale value, sometimes by organized teams. (CBC)

Could technology be the solution?

Others who are foiled by staff are legally barred from stores for six months. 

"We issue a protection of property order against that person so that they're not allowed to shop at the store. At any give time, we have about 100 of those outstanding in the communities we serve across Nova Scotia," she said. 

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is experimenting with electronic anti-theft caps that attach to the tops of bottles and are removed at checkout. 

The design of new NSLC stores helps deter theft, including wide aisles and low shelving that's not higher than a customer's waist. (CBC)

Corra said the NSLC is always on the lookout for new technology to prevent theft. 

"I think that we would consider it," she said. 


Jack Julian


Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian