Alberta police agencies launch campaign to target retail crime

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WATCH: It's a multi-million dollar crime hitting retailers across this province. Police agencies across Alberta are now collaborating their efforts to target the criminals responsible. Jill Croteau reports – Nov 20, 2018

In the days leading up to Black Friday, law enforcement authorities across Alberta, who are working together to tackle retail theft, are raising awareness about the problem.

Const. Kevin Anderson with the Calgary Police Service said Tuesday that most offenders are arrested with shopping lists of items in high demand.

“We are starting to work backwards,” he said. ‘Who wrote the shopping list? Why are you targeting this specific item?’

“Whether it’s sheets that need a certain thread count or fragrance of a certain brand, down to certain types of meats. Where are they going?”

Some of the products wind up overseas for resale and most are ending up for sale online. Cpl. Joseph Stubbs of the Airdrie RCMP said law enforcement agencies’ collaborative efforts are helping to track these criminals.

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“We want buyers to be proactive and think about where you’re buying them from,” he said. “[If you ask] the simple question, ‘Where did you get it?’ A legitimate seller will tell you where they’re getting it from.”

WATCH MORE: Alberta retail stores adapting to digital consumers, increase in theft

Major retail chains are often the target, but Const. Shawn Davis with the Lethbridge Police Service said locally owned shops aren’t immune.

“If there’s a product and you’re selling it, they will steal from you,” Davis said. “They’re not concerned where the loss is coming from, they’re only concerned about their gain.”

Const. Ray Wilson of the Edmonton Police Service said people who buy from these chronic shoplifters are inadvertently financing the drug trade and other serious crimes.

“Shoplifting has stigma,” Wilson said. “It’s a low-level offence but it leads to other crimes and they are involved in other criminal activity… shoplifting is just the start.”

Investigators said retailers recover their lost profits and costs for increased security by raising prices for the average consumer.

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Police said Tuesday that an increasing number of criminals are using what’s referred to as “booster bags.” The bags are purses lined with a certain material that cheats security alarms.