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Winnipeg thefts moving out of liquor stores and into retail outlets: police

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So far this year, Winnipeg is seeing a 44 per cent spike in shoplifting incidents.

It’s a problem Kevin Schmidt, the owner of the Downtown Family Foods, has seen first hand. He said since people returned downtown post-pandemic, shoplifting has been on the rise at his grocery store.

"It's getting more difficult and it's very frustrating because anything that walks out your door – five bucks, 50 bucks – it all affects your bottom line," he said.

The thieves are also becoming more brazen, Schmidt said.

"They don't care anymore, they don't care if it's concealed as much, they'll just have it in their hands and they'll just see an opportunity to make it towards the door and out they go."

The Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) released new statistics on Monday as part of its announcement on the Retail Theft Initiative – a project that began last month to combat the issue of shoplifting in the city.

According to police, from January to August, there have been 3,745 cases of shoplifting under $5,000 – a spike of 44 per cent compared to the same period in 2022.

This number remains below pre-pandemic levels; however, the thefts, which used to mostly take place in liquor stores, have now switched to retail outlets.

“This increase is not unique to our city,” said Insp. Jennifer McKinnon of the Major Crimes Division.

“Cities across Canada and our neighbours south of the border are all experiencing this rising trend in shoplifting incidents,”

The Retail Theft Initiative is a partnership between police, the Retail Council of Canada, and Winnipeg’s business community. So far, police have made 151 arrests in connection with the initiative.

Police note that shoplifting is not a victimless crime, and in some situations, it has resulted in the injury of retail staff and members of the public.

“Recently, as of last week, a 59-year-old female employee was stabbed in the 500 block of Notre Dame while assisting security with a male suspect who had just shoplifted inside the store,” McKinnon said.

“Although she will heal from her injuries, the trauma that she will carry with her will be long and lasting.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg man facing charges in two violent robberies

The WPS said it recognizes that the issues surrounding theft are complex, and that it’s committed to working with community partners to ensure supports are made available to those facing addiction, poverty and food insecurity.

Officers are using crime-analysis data to determine where to focus their efforts. Police have been focused on the downtown, Kildonan Crossing and Polo Park areas.

Schmidt hopes the initiative works, but feels it is geared towards the bigger retail chains.

"When they're stealing five or ten dollars worth of stuff, even though it affects you're bottom line, it almost doesn't make sense to put the time to put that report in," he said.

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