Spike in brazen thefts at Winnipeg Liquor Marts has financial and safety implications
Published Wednesday, September 12, 2018 6:26PM CST
Last Updated Thursday, September 13, 2018 5:01PM CST
Brazen thieves are making off with booze from Manitoba Liquor Marts and in some cases there's nothing staff or security guards can do to stop them.
The Crown corporation is seeing a spike in thefts this year and new numbers supplied by Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries to CTV News show how much it's costing.
In the past 12 months Liquor Marts have incurred $775,000 worth of lost products, mainly due to theft, but the number also includes breakage and clerical errors.
That's up more than $200 thousand from the previous 12-month period and represents 0.2 per cent of $400 million dollars in gross sales across all Liquor Marts.
"They are walking in, taking multiple bottles and then walking out with them,” said Andrea Kowal, directr of communications and corporate affairs with Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries. "We're working every way we can to fix this and to bring that number back down."
On Tuesday, Winnipeg police said the spike in thefts at Liquor Marts has resulted in more than 1277 incidents reported to officers so far in 2018.
It’s a situation the union representing liquor store workers said has left employees worried.
"Our members have been dealing with this for some time,” said MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky. “It is only getting worse instead of getting better, these bold acts of theft where people are walking in and walking out and not thinking twice."
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries said employees and security guards have been told not to physically intervene, but they are trained to verbally engage suspected thieves.
"We're not tackling them or catching them at the time they're in the store and what we want to convey is that is dangerous,” said Kowal. “Physical intervention at the time is dangerous but we are still stopping these thieves because we're working with police to arrest them afterwards."
Police, too, said they're working with Liquor Marts to curb thefts but wouldn't elaborate on their methods.
Liquor and Lotteries said some premium products have been pulled off the shelves and now require employee assistance to be purchased.
The Crown corporation said it has also tried using bottle locks but found them to be ineffective.
To highlight how violent some of these thefts can be, both police and the Crown pointed to an incident in August when an off-duty RCMP officer confronted suspected thieves at a liquor store, only to receive minor injuries when the suspects began throwing liquor bottles at the officer.
On Tuesday police also announced two arrests in numerous liquor robberies; an 18-year-old man was charged in connection to 80 liquor store thefts and a second 18-year-old man was charged in connection to 52 liquor store thefts.
Liquor and Lotteries said it has state of the art security equipment which can capture high definition images from all angles and that its surveillance and security department works seven days a week reviewing, investigating and reporting incidents.
The Crown corporation said it's continuing to explore new ways to prevent thefts from happening in the first place which includes working with police.
Note: A previous version of this story said Liquor Marts' gross annual sales totaled $800 million. A spokesperson for the Crown later said that number was given to media in error and should have read $400 million.