Brazen daylight liquor store thefts continue around Winnipeg

Liquor Marts are not just a quick one-stop shop for paying customers, but for criminals as well.

Brazen, daylight thefts have been an ongoing problem at stores around Manitoba, leaving paying customers to wonder what is being done about it.

Winnipegger Ryan Watson told Global News he saw two men walk out with “arm loads” of booze at the liquor store on Leila Avenue and McPhillips Street Sunday afternoon.

“These two guys had (their) arms full of bottles,” Watson said. “I don’t mean one hiding it under his jacket. They had arms full … probably four or five bottles out in the open, plain as day.”

Watson said he was in line at the cashier with about ten other customers when the two men walked by, nonchalantly, and walked straight out the door without paying.

“They weren’t rushing or anything like that … just walked past the line,” he said.

“They didn’t talk to anybody, they didn’t try to go out the entrance, and one of the cashiers sarcastically goes ‘okay thanks gentlemen. Have a good night.’”

Watson said after the pair of thieves walked out the door, they jumped into a red vehicle and drove off. No one inside attempted to intervene.

“The security guard never came out to see if he could ID a vehicle, the people, the licence plate,” he said.

“It was just ‘throw your hands up’ as something we have to accept. As a Canadian, a Manitoban, a Winnipegger, I think it’s beyond silly.”

It’s definitely not the first time it has happened. Liquor Mart thefts have been an ongoing and increasing problem around Winnipeg.

According to Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries there were 658 thefts reported to police in 2017. In 2018, there were 2,602.

In February, MBLL quietly hired Winnipeg police officers to help curb thefts, but it refused to expand on whether it had helped.

MBLL refused an interview with Global News and instead provided this statement:

“Ensuring the safety and security of our employees and customers is our main focus as we work with the Winnipeg Police Service to explore all options in deterring theft at our Liquor Marts. We are currently trying and evaluating different tactics which includes using the WPS’ special duty constable service. We have engaged these officers as one of many tactics that we will be looking to employ in our Liquor Marts. Exploring these different options is ongoing.

We are pleased to see that since October there have been more than 80 arrests, with many of those arrested are responsible for multiple incidents of theft at our Liquor Marts.

I’m afraid I can’t share any more information at this time. Continuing to share details about our security and anti-theft measures compromises their effectiveness and risks the safety of our staff and customers.”

The statement is almost identical to one received on Mar. 1 when Global News asked if Liquor Marts were considering adding metal detectors or other theft deterrents to stores.

“The safety and security of our employees and customers remains our number one priority and we continue to work closely with the Winnipeg Police Service to explore every avenue possible to deter thefts at Liquor Marts. We are currently in the process of evaluating several options in consultation with them.  We are pleased to report that since October, there have been more than 80 arrests, with many of those arrested responsible for multiple incidents of thefts at our stores and at many other retailers.

That’s all the information we can share at this time. I know you will understand that sharing details about security and anti-theft measures might compromise their effectiveness and could place our staff and customers at risk.”

Winnipeg Police and Colleen Mayer, the minister responsible for liquor and lotteries, also refused Global News’ requests for comment on the issue.

However, in August, Winnipeg police said liquor store thefts were rising at a “substantial” rate and were taking a toll on police resources.

“Every one of those thefts requires some investigation, requires a detective to look into it … they take a substantial amount of work,” Const. Jay Murray said.

“It’s not an issue that we’ve seen as a significant problem in the past, but it has become one now, and one that’s providing a substantial drain on our resources in our Major Crimes Unit.”

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