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‘It’s time to start making changes’: Winnipeg liquor store thefts still a major problem

A  Manitoba Liquor Mart location.
A Manitoba Liquor Mart location. Google Maps

Brazen, daylight thefts have been an ongoing problem at liquor stores around Manitoba, leaving paying customers to wonder what is being done about it.

For many, it seems like the answer is “nothing.”

“I’ve seen the odd security guard,” one customer told Global News outside a Liquor Mart. “No difference,” said another.

After countless public robberies, in March Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries announced new tactics were being introduced to enhance security at the stores.

The new measures would include a mobile team of trained loss-prevention officers who would work with existing security teams. MBLL said they would be stationed at Liquor Marts during peak periods, or at stores that have experienced a spike in thefts.

READ MORE: Bag checks, bottle locks among new measures to combat Liquor Mart robberies

However, MBLL could not tell Global News where it is in that process or how many of these new officers have been hired.

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“We remain in the process of implementing initiatives like exit turnstiles and the hiring of our internal Loss Prevention Officer team in a methodical way,” Shawn McGurk, Director, Corporate Security, Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries said in an email statement.

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MBLL also previously said in addition to security staff changes, there would be new protocols for customers. A “no-bag” policy means customers may be asked to check their bags with security when entering a Liquor Mart.

However, again, it could not answer how many stores these changes have been implemented in.

“There’s no one solution that will eliminate theft from Liquor Marts,” McGuirk said.

READ MORE: Brazen daylight liquor store thefts continue around Winnipeg

Economist Robert Warren told Global News it’s all about the cost-benefit analysis and it may be cheaper for the Crown Corporation to do nothing.

“The liquor store has a target amount that they are willing to lose either through theft or spillage,” Warren said. “Only when it crosses that line are they going to do anything else.”

“Right now where we think we’re seeing a lot happening, what they take a look at is, is it getting above the percentage they have set?”

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Warren also said there becomes a point, regardless of the cost, where you have to take action to appease the public.

“It’s time to start making changes,” he said.

“If you’re a taxpayer in Manitoba you should be upset that they’re having high levels of theft … The (MBLL) contributes to the general coffers of the government, so every dollar they don’t put in you as a taxpayer have to cough up,”

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MBLL would not provide Global News with updated loss or theft numbers. Instead they referred us back to numbers posted online in May and an emailed statement.

Statement:

“The issue of thefts in Liquor Marts is one we take extremely seriously. Our focus continues to be on ensuring our stores are a safe working and shopping environment. Every day, our employees contend with the threat of thefts and robberies and we understand how traumatic this can be for both employees and customers when these incidents do occur.

We have instituted a number of new anti-theft measures in Liquor Marts and will continue to implement others. Security measures in use at Liquor Marts include bottle locks, dummy bottles, lockable cabinets, video displays at store entrances, requiring customers to ask staff for high value products, a public awareness campaign, and expanded use of Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) Special Duty Constables. We’re continuing to pilot various tactics to determine which measures are the most effective for our stores.

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There’s no one solution that will eliminate theft from Liquor Marts. The above measures are intended to collectively deter theft in ways that maintain the safety of our customers and employees, and that allow us to identify the people committing these crimes. We remain in the process of implementing initiatives like exit turnstiles and the hiring of our internal Loss Prevention Officer team in a methodical way, and are cautiously optimistic that we are trending in the right direction with decreases in thefts and shrinkage.

While we are encouraged by our results to date and the fact that the number of arrests made by the Winnipeg Police Service has increased, thefts in Liquor Marts do still occur. We would like to remind the public not to intervene should they witness a theft in progress. Intervening could lead to someone being seriously injured and it is simply not worth it for a bottle of product.”

 

— If you have additional information, concerns or comments about similar thefts and would like to share, please contact our newsroom.

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