Mac's in Thunder Bay tackles security issues

Security team to look at ways to make convenience store less appealing to thieves

22 robberies at Mac's convenience stores this year

Mac's security head for central Canada says: 'We’re not a bank. Our employees do not have access to safes or ATMs.' (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Mac's convenience stores is sending its security team to the city next week.  Several of the company's convenience stores in Thunder Bay have been targetted this year -- with the 22nd robbery recorded early this morning.

Mayor, and former police officer, Keith Hobbs said he wants convenience stores to invest in improving security and there are steps the stores can take.

"What's wrong with locking out your doors and buzzing people in and having cameras set up right at the doors?" he asked.

"This is a suggestion from a citizen that emailed me and I think it's got merit. Buzz the customers in. I wouldn't mind being buzzed in and I wouldn't mind my picture being taken before I was buzzed into a store at night."

But the manager of loss prevention and security for Mac's in central Canada says that's not an option.

Sean Sportun said buzzing customers into the store means staff has to judge people based on appearance which raises human rights concerns. He said it can also make the situation worse if a robber gets in, because they have to be buzzed out.

"So if that employee … under stress … doesn't realize they gotta buzz them out — or the bad guys don't realize they gotta get buzzed out — they’re locked in the store.  So now we have a serious situation where until someone realizes how to get out of the store, our employee is put right in the middle of a dangerous situation."

'Overall losses have been minimal'

Over the last year and a half, Sportun said the company has upgraded all its security systems to high-end recording devices to capture people's images with remote access from Toronto. Company investigators can gather information from any store across Canada and give that data to police.

He said the company is also using the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) — an approach to planning and development that reduces opportunities for crime.

"Whether it is increasing lighting, increasing cameras on the outside, putting up fences, cutting back trees and shrubs, moving garbage cans and whatnot" Sportun said those measure can lessen escape routes for robbers.

He noted the company’s main concern is staff and customer safety because the actual losses from theft are small.

"Overall losses have been minimal," Sportun said.

"We’re not a bank. Our employees do not have access to safes or ATMs."

He said thieves generally only get $50 from the till and some cigarettes.


  • A story about Mac’s store robberies published Oct. 19 said there had been 15 robberies. In fact, there have been 22. This story was updated on October 20 after Thunder Bay police corrected their calculation of the number of Mac's store robberies this year.
    Oct 20, 2011 12:37 PM ET