Edmonton’s police chief says controlled entrances at liquor stores are effective at reducing thefts and robberies, and he’s calling for them to be implemented industry-wide.
After a spike in violent thefts and robberies at liquor stores in 2018, the Edmonton Police Service worked with its community partners on a controlled entrance concept, which was successfully tested by liquor retailer Alcanna (now Sundial Growers).
Controlled entrances require a person to scan their identification before they can enter the store.
To date, the controlled entries have shown to effectively reduce thefts and robberies by about 93 per cent at former high-theft stores that have adopted the technology, according to police.
“We know that controlled entrances work, and it’s time to make them the industry-wide standard,” EPS Chief Dale McFee said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, the EPS said it was surprised to see a dramatic overall decrease in thefts. Police say this confirmed their suspicions that more was going on.
“Unlike many retailers, liquor stores did not close during the pandemic,” acting Sgt. Ben Davis said. “You would expect the trend of increasing theft and violence to either continue or increase.”
In late 2020, officers focused on two “prolific liquor thieves” and uncovered a large market for stolen liquor and a coordinated distribution network that police say was supplying the liquor to legitimate local businesses.
“There is undoubtedly a link between liquor theft and organized crime in our city, as liquor has become one of the many commodities these groups use to conduct business,” Davis said.
In March 2022, when pandemic restrictions began lifting and licensed establishments fully reopened, police say liquor thefts and robberies began to gradually increase again.
“With licensed establishments operating in full swing, the market for stolen product is once again open and the gradual increase we are seeing is not surprising,” Davis said.
“While most businesses are purchasing their liquor legally, those who are not are fueling this trend and the violence against store staff that often accompanies it.”
The police chief said the recent rise in theft doesn’t just impact police resources, it also impacts the safety of store staff and surrounding communities. He’s calling on liquor retailers and all levels of government to take preventative action to reduce the community risk.
“This issue goes far beyond individual offenders, and repeatedly arresting them is not our path out of this problem – prevention is. This is a proven solution that every jurisdiction can benefit from,” McFee said.
“Now is the time for businesses and the government to take action and get ahead of this upward trending theft and violence,” Davis added.