WINNIPEG -- WINNIPEG -- As Winnipeg retailers look to crack down on shoplifting and violence in stores they’re turning to the Winnipeg Police Service’s special duty program to provide an extra layer of security. It’s a solution the city’s police chief warned Friday morning isn’t sustainable in the long run as demand for the service continues to rise.

The WPS’s special duty program allows businesses and organizations to pay the Winnipeg Police Service to hire officers not on shift to work overtime in order to provide event or in-store security.

“Demand now is starting to increase, we can’t sustain this long term,” police chief Danny Smyth told reporters after Friday’s Winnipeg Police Board meeting. “I’ve certainly spoken with some of the retailers to go, ‘don’t be counting on police overtime to solve your retail theft problems.’

“We’re more than happy to sit at the table and try to work with retailers. I think you saw Liquor and Lotteries, for example, now they’ve changed their model a little bit to try to adapt to some of what’s going on.”

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries recently launched a new secure entrance initiative that will, in the coming months, require customers at all of its Winnipeg stores to show valid photo identification before being allowed inside.

“I think it will be important for other retailers to consider changing their retail model a little bit...can’t rely on police standing at the door,” said Smyth.

Smyth told reporters the police service has noticed a slight increase in sick leave as Winnipeg has been facing escalating rates of violent and property crime and has tied the city’s record for the number of homicides in one year at 41.

“Our people are working to the max right now,” said Smyth. “Some of that resulted in me making the short-term adjustments in our resources here in November, to provide some relief to our frontline people.”

The special duty program allows private entities to hire police officers at a rate of $112 per hour for one constable – while it doesn’t cost the police financially, the extra hours which are voluntary can affect officers.

“We’re sensitive to the overtime,” said Smyth. “We recover our costs on it but it’s the time of our officers, they’re volunteering on their days off to do that. We don’t want to burn them out.

“We already have provisions, protocols within that so that you have to have clear hours of rest.