A rash of thefts at Winnipeg liquor stores — as well as other retailers, like grocery and clothing stores — has people feeling increasingly frustrated by what they see as a lack of consequences for the thieves.
One Winnipeg man told 680 CJOB he took matters into his own hands at a Gateway-area supermarket last week.
Luke Bodek said he was at a Superstore checkout with his mother when he saw two men rush into the in-store Liquor Mart.
“All of a sudden, two guys ran in with their hoodies on and bandannas on… through the exit and right for the Liquor Mart,” he said.
“It must have took not even 10 seconds for them to run in, go right to the Liquor Mart, and start grabbing bottles and putting them in their backpacks.”
Bodek said he noticed a couple with a small baby at the checkout in front of him — directly in the path of the two men — so he stepped between them and the thieves.
“If the couple in front of us with a newborn goes to load their groceries, when they come running out, they’re going to hit (the mother) and the baby.”
Bodek said he was able to grab one of the men and wrestle him back into the aisle, where he was helped by other customers.
They waited with the man until police came, 20 or 25 minutes later, he said. After giving police his statement, Bodek said he was frustrated to hear the man would likely be released within a day.
“There’s really no consequences for them, so I’m asking myself, ‘would I do it again?’ If there was another young family with kids, I would do it again. If I was by myself and there was no one around, I’d probably think twice.”
Although there may not be serious consequences for the would-be thief, performing “citizen’s arrests” may result in consequences for the people putting themselves in harm’s way.
Winnipeg police have advised local residents to avoid getting involved in these situations, and there are potential legal consequences as well.
“You always want to be careful when you’re interjecting yourself into those kinds of situations, for a few different reasons,” lawyer Josh Rogala told 680 CJOB.
“First, you don’t know how this person’s going to react. They might be armed. Oftentimes, people are armed, and it can quickly escalate to a situation where either you’re going to be seriously injured, or they’re going to be seriously injured.
“At the end of the day, do you really want to be injured, or to injure someone, and then become involved in the criminal justice system, either as someone who’s charged or as someone who’s going to have to come to court and testify?”
Rogala said although amendments to the criminal code mean there is some leeway for citizens to perform arrests, you’re essentially going to have to find a legal justification for assaulting someone.
“It’s really a circumstance that requires someone to respond to force or the threat of force with force, in order to stop an attack… or to stop someone from committing an offence, like theft in this case,” he said.
“The courts, when looking at things like this, are going to be looking at different factors when determining whether that lawful justification is available.”
Rogala’s advice for would-be vigilantes is to just let the police do their job.