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'We will not stand idly by': Manitoba government to pay overtime hours to help curb retail theft

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The Manitoba government is stepping in to help curb Winnipeg's retail theft problem.

Justice Minister Matt Wiebe announced new money for overtime hours so more police officers can respond to calls.

"We will not stand idly by while crime is running rampant in our communities," said Wiebe.

The money comes after some recent high-profile incidents.

Starbucks closed in Osborne Village after a violent incident nearby. More recently, a suspect went behind the counter at Cinnaholic and stole cash from the register.

In addition, the owner of a Winnipeg Foodfare had their vehicle set on fire in the parking lot in broad daylight after shoplifters were confronted.

"I can just say we need to de-escalate the situation."

No details on funding have been shared at this point, but Wiebe said there would be four additional units on the streets, adding he is referring to patrol vehicles and the officers that would staff them.

At Cantor's Quality Meats and Groceries, they are decked out with preventative shoplifting measures like cameras, surveillance video and a security guard.

"You have to keep an eye out on people. You never know what's going on. Things are tough now for people and food is expensive," said Owner Ed Cantor.

He said he witnesses shoplifting every day.

"Money, money, money. It adds up and it goes into the bottom line and somebody has to pay for it."

Cantor hopes the promise of a boosted police presence makes a dent.

"I know they're busy and their short help, and they're short-staffed. I think they need more manpower and a faster response."

The Winnipeg Police Service said it's reviewing the proposal from the province, and looks forward to further consultation.

Mayor Scott Gillingham is happy to see the support coming from the provincial level.

"Certainly, I and now the province want to assist retail operators with what they're going through right now," said Gillingham.

Winnipeg Police Board Chair Markus Chambers said police resources are stretched thin.

"When you look at weekly protests that are happening in our city, it's taking a toll on our overtime budget," said Chambers.

Chambers added the board will be discussing this in a private meeting before next week's public meeting.

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