Five teens have been arrested after a group of young suspects swarmed a Winnipeg liquor store — stuffing their bags with hundreds of liquor bottles — in a chaotic scene that was caught on video.
The eight second video, posted to social media Thursday, appears to show a group of several suspects, many with hoods covering their faces, lined up along a liquor shelf, frantically putting bottles into bags.
“I haven’t really seen … something as brazen as this,” said Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Rob Carver Friday.
“It’s certainly unusual for us.”
Police were called to the Tyndall Liquor Mart on Keewatin Avenue Wednesday around 6:20 p.m. and officers were able to catch five suspects at the scene.
WATCH: Several suspects fill their bags with bottles at a Winnipeg Liquor Mart
Carver said the suspects range in age between 14 and 16.
He couldn’t say how many other suspects were able to get away, but did say nearly 200 bottles were stolen during the seemingly organized theft attempt.
It’s not the first time police have seen swarms of criminals attempting to steal items from retail stores, said Carver, and it’s not just happening at liquor stores.
“Retail throughout not only our city but across Canada, is seeing a change in pattern where sometimes groups are coming in,” he said.
“Some … distract staff while others are attempting to steal product, so it’s not an unusual event, it’s unusual that the nature of this one was a little more brazen, a little more chaotic.”
Liquor Mart thefts have been an ongoing problem in Winnipeg.
According to numbers from Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries incidents of theft rose more than 300 per cent in 2018 from 2017, jumping from 658 thefts in Liquor Marts to more than 2,600 in 2018.
The 20 richest neighbourhoods across Canada
Housing market ‘balance’ could return in 2023, but interest rates the ‘wildcard’: Re/Max
Police and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries drew attention to a dramatic rise in thefts last summer, and announced a partnership in February, which saw officers placed in some liquor stores.
The MLL also unveiled enhanced security measures in March including a mobile team of trained loss prevention officers, a “no-bag policy”, and new security for products including bottle locks, dummy bottles, alarms and lockable shelf cases for frequently-targeted items.
In a statement to Global News, a Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries spokesperson called the rate and severity of thefts at Winnipeg liquor stores “incredibly concerning.”
“Like all Winnipeggers, we are shocked to see brazen acts of theft occurring so openly all over the city,” she said.
“These events are traumatic and take an emotional toll when witnessed by employees and customers.”
The spokesperson said MLL continues to implement additional security measures and is consulting with law enforcement, other retailers, and security experts in an attempt to curb the thefts.
“We will not stop exploring every option,” she said.
While the Crown Corporation had credited the new security efforts for a 23 per cent drop in thefts and robberies seen by May, the spokesperson now says the rate of theft in Liquor Marts is “as high as it’s ever been.”
Carver agrees, telling Global News the phenomenon is becoming a drain on police resources.
“Anytime we see a crime trend and we’re not able to figure out a way to effectively derail it, it’s frustrating,” he said.
–With files from Brittany Greenslade
RELATED VIDEO: Bag checks, bottle locks among new measures to combat Liquor Mart robberies