The issue of thefts at Liquor Mart locations across the province will be discussed this week at a meeting between the union representing store workers and Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.

The Crown corporation said it has experienced a $200, 000 increase in lost product due to theft over the past 12 months compared to the previous 12-month period, blaming the spike on shoplifters who become brazen and dangerous when confronted. Total losses account for about 0.2 per cent of annual sales.

According to the Retail Council of Canada, the losses suffered by Manitoba Liquor Marts are actually lower than the national average. It said most businesses lose an average of about two per cent of annual sales to shoplifting which amounts to a total of $5 billion in losses due to theft for the retail sector across the country.

Cantor’s Grocery owner Ed Cantor said losses due to shoplifting at his store have increased 5 per cent this year compared to last year.

“It’s increasing, for sure,” said Cantor. “It’s part of doing businesses. It’s inevitable, it’s in every business. You can’t help it.

“It hurts because you have to put prices up because your bottom line, you lost money on that, you need money to replace it. You have people to pay, you have costs to pay, you have bills to pay.”

Cantor said he tries to prevent shoplifting with a 36-camera surveillance system and by having staff watch for any suspicious behaviour.

It’s not only the retail sector.

The Winnipeg Construction Association (WCA), which represents over 800 commercial contractors, said it’s aware of the recent spike in thefts at Liquor Marts which it says has created heightened awareness for its members working at construction sites.

WCA president Ron Hambley said he’s not aware of any spike in thefts but said tools and building materials, items which can easily be resold, have been targeted in the past.

“It’s something our members take very seriously,” said Hambley. “They don’t take delivery of materials until they need them. Obviously some of that stuff is reasonably valuable and it could disappear. The pieces they’re most concerned about is the small tools, expensive tools that are easy to walk away with.”

Hambley said crews keep tools securely stored on construction sites or don’t leave them on site.

On Monday, Winnipeg police said a front-end loader was stolen sometime over the weekend from McGregor Street and Manitoba Avenue but Hambley said thefts of large equipment like that are rare.

“It has happened that large pieces of equipment go missing,” said Hambley. “Normally they’re tracked down. Sometimes it’s a joy ride situation.

“Typically those types of equipment are reasonably hard to steal, start and move.”

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has told security they can verbally intervene with suspected thieves but guards have been instructed not to physically confront anyone for safety reasons.

Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky said last week employees have a number of ideas they want to share with management to curb thefts.