Business owners, law enforcement meeting in Winnipeg Friday to tackle retail theft

Winnipeg retailers are meeting discuss the rise in store thefts. Getty Images

Fed up with rising theft, law enforcement officials and retailers are holding a round table discussion Friday in Winnipeg to crack down on crime.

John Graham with the Retail Council of Canada told 680 CJOB that increasingly violent incidents made the meeting necessary.

Graham said a November incident at a Tyndall Park Liquor Mart, which saw an employee sent to hospital, was the last straw for a lot of retailers.

“The violent Liquor Mart incident really made a number of business associations, including the Retail Council, say ‘enough’s enough, we’ve got to change the tune here’, and precisely drove the need to work together and come up with solutions,” he said.

Graham said while crime is an issue in every community, Winnipeg is a hotspot for repeat incidents – and has retailers and their employees concerned about safety.

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“In downtown Winnipeg and some other areas, it’s just so brazen and there’s such frequency of repeat offenders,” he said.

“This prolific group that has no concerns for the repercussions that are creating a lot of safety issues for employees and costs to businesses that are located in these areas.”

Retail Council of Canada director John Graham.
Retail Council of Canada director John Graham. Retail Council of Canada

READ MORE: Winnipeg Liquor Mart to close after brutal assault of employees; ‘secure’ entrance to be built

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One of the biggest challenges facing local retailers, he said, is that businesses’ loss prevention teams are legally prevented from sharing information about the identities of repeat offenders with each other.

Graham said the Retail Council is working with Manitoba Justice to find a solution to the problem, but at present, retailers don’t have the individuals’ permission to share their personal information, so they can’t share it unless the person is convicted of a crime.

It’s a frustration many businesses are encountering.

Best Buy Canada’s regional loss prevention officer, Marco Addesa, told 680 CJOB that opening up lines of communication and sharing best practices is one of the issues he’s interested in discussing at the round table meeting.

“We want to look at the privacy legislation and see what can be done in and around… freely sharing information between loss prevention professionals and law enforcement to identify various individuals or groups that are committing these crimes,” he said.

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“Talking about what’s working – what we, as professionals, feel we can add some value to.”

Addesa said Best Buy’s policy is very straight-forward – staff are not to interact with shoplifters.

“There’s a dangerous component,” he said. “Their safety is paramount without question, and that goes the same for our customers.

“We want to be able to use… intelligence gathering, let’s call it, and work with different loss prevention professionals as well as law enforcement to stop these individuals from committing these crimes.”

The round table event, open to invited guests only, takes place at The Metropolitan Entertainment Centre in downtown Winnipeg.

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Click to play video: 'Crime Wave: Liquor thefts become more violent'
Crime Wave: Liquor thefts become more violent

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