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Nearly 500 Winnipeg police officers to be hired by stores to prevent theft in December

Winnipeg police respond to media questions about special duty assignments
Winnipeg police spokesperson Const. Jay Murray speaks to media about retailers hiring off-duty police officers to help curb a rise in thefts.

With rampant theft on the rise, Winnipeg retailers are increasingly turning to off-duty police officers to help curb crime.

According to police statistics shared with 680 CJOB, in October, 310 officers did extra time patrolling shops and malls. That figure shot up to 373 in November, and is even higher this month — with 481 officers scheduled for special duty in December.

The fees for special duty officers, however, don’t come out of the police budget — retailers pay to have the extra security in stores.

At a press conference later in the day Wednesday police said the going rate to hire an off-duty officer for special duty starts at $112 an hour, plus GST.

READ MORE: Winnipeg grocer resorts to confronting shoplifters, says theft worst he’s ever seen

John Graham of the Retail Council of Canada told 680 CJOB using cops on ‘special duty’ isn’t an ideal solution, or even a sustainable one, but it’s a last resort for some business owners fed up with theft.

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“It’s certainly not a sustainable option to bring in off-duty police officers,” he said.

“It’s very expensive, but honestly, it’s a pretty effective way of deterring theft, creating a safety environment for customers and employees, who are increasingly anxious as a result of some of the well-covered stories lately.”

Private security companies see boom in industry because of shoplifting
Private security companies see boom in industry because of shoplifting

Graham said in one example, an off-duty cop made 15 arrests in a single eight-hour shift.

Graham said recent meetings with the province and Justice Minister Cliff Cullen have him hopeful for a more permanent solution.

“What we’ve asked the minister for is an enhanced level of authority for a special, certified higher-tier loss prevention officer that has the authority to capture information about the accused, to file a report, [and] to deliver a promise to appear notice that would save police from having to respond in incidences where they’re frankly not responding because of limited ability to anyway,” he said.

READ MORE: Arrest by appointment: Winnipeg police are so busy there’s often no time to nab suspects

Graham said this kind of officer would likely give retailers the ability to ‘plug right in’ to the police service by increasing the number of charges laid and to create better data collection.

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“I’d like to see a day where we don’t need security in our stores.”

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