The fight against liquor store thefts continues to ramp up in Alberta.
In an effort to make real change several community groups gathered at an Edmonton liquor store for an educational surprise.
“We want to give people a real glimpse into what’s going on behind the scenes of liquor store thefts, it’s really not an issue of one person coming in stealing one bottle, it’s organized crime groups coming in and stealing a lot of alcohol,” Heather Baird, MacEwan University’s Social Innovation Institute academic lead, said.
To visually show that, actors hid behind a cooler and when a customer opened the door, the actor would perform several skits about the significance of liquor theft.
The show is part of the legally-sourced pledge program, a new initiative by the Edmonton Police Foundation in partnership with liquor store giant Alcanna and MacEwan’s Social Innovation Institute to lower liquor store thefts.
The planted actors were part of the launch event and won’t be a regular part of the campaign.
“Once that liquor is stolen they’re selling it to bars and restaurants that want to buy this liquor because it’s cheaper, obviously,” Ashif Mawji, chair of the Edmonton Police Foundation, said.
The program invites businesses that sell alcohol to display a badge on site, telling customers and staff that they are committed to legally-sourced alcohol.
The aim targets the buyers to stop buying from the thieves.
Police Chief Dale McFee says it’s important to try new methods rather than using traditional processes that are not working.
“There’s a lot of victims coming from this, if we can actually look at doing things proactively to take the market away, like were doing here today,” McFee said. “We’re all in as partners because at the end of the day it’s all about the safety of our citizens.”
Alcanna stores in Edmonton alone had 6,000 thefts in 2020. So far this year, there have been 675 thefts in the city.
“The financial cost is nothing compared to the impacts it has on our employees, our turn over rate is out of control — people don’t feel safe coming to work,” Alcanna’s director of corporate investigations Taylor Mann said.
Other efforts underway to crack down on liquor store thefts include secured entrances requiring identification and planted bait bottles with tracking devices.
Businesses interested in making the pledge can visit the campaign website.