News that the number of liquor store robberies in Edmonton has tripled in the past year is getting attention from several groups.
Large groups of suspects are walking into stores and filling bags — or their arms — with bottles of alcohol before walking out without paying or trying to hide the theft.
The Alberta Liquor Store Association has been told two gangs are responsible but the group believes changes to bylaws aren’t helping.
“When you have liquor stores that are close together in proximity, it’s just so much easier for thieves — and in this case, these gangs — to come in and hit them all at once in a very short period of time,” said President Ivonne Martinez.
In 2016, Edmonton city council voted to loosen regulations around some liquor stores. In the past they had to be built at least half a kilometre apart.
While police said at the time that there was a correlation between the crime rate and density of stores, the 500-metre limit was eliminated for many areas.
“I think to suggest a spike that large could come from a change to separation distances, when there fundamentally aren’t many more liquor stores than there were before, is a bit of a stretch of a claim quite frankly,” Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson said.
“I’m dubious of that.”
There have been 58 new stores in impacted zones since 2016. The city could not say whether all of them were less than 500 metres apart.
Alcanna, the company that owns Liquor Depot, is pushing for Alberta Gaming, Liquor & Cannabis (AGLC) to crack down on locations that could be selling the alcohol.
“The nightclubs and the liquor stores that are buying the stolen goods, if that stops, then they don’t have a reason to sell them quite as much as before,” CEO James Burns told Global News.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the AGLC said it “is aware of the increase in reported thefts from Alberta liquor stores,” adding they were concerned for the well-being of retail staff.
As to whether it is attempting to cut off demand for the products, the organization said that it “investigates any complaints associated with gaming, liquor or cannabis licensees.”
“Any licensee found purchasing and/or serving illegally sourced liquor products could be charged under the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act and/or the Criminal Code of Canada,” the AGLC said.
The Edmonton Police Service has developed a dedicated task force in response to the huge spike in robberies.
Watch below (Sept. 24): A CEO is speaking out because he’s terrified one of his employees is going to get killed. Edmonton has seen a 300 per cent spike in liquor store robberies this year alone. Breanna Karstens-Smith has the startling video of brazen robberies that are turning violent.