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Liquor Store Thefts

A rise in liquor store thefts have prompted some much needed solutions.

The EPS responds and investigates on average 15 events a day in relation to liquor thefts. The risk to the community and staff who work in this field are significant.

These ongoing thefts, and associated violence, left businesses reeling from millions in lost product and staff retention. Liquor store theft is also unsustainable from a law enforcement perspective, including the EPS, which conservatively spent upwards of $4 Million in front-line resources in 2020, responding to and investigating liquor theft complaints.

What’s being done?

Controlled Entrance Initiative

ALCANNA, a partner in a collaborative effort between the Edmonton Police Foundation (EPF) and the EPS, contributed $100,000 to the ongoing efforts to address the chronic liquor store problem, which generates violence and fear for liquor store employees and the surrounding communities.

The partnership between ALCANNA, the EPF and EPS, has already led to tangible progress being made on the issue of liquor store theft with the implementation of a controlled entrance initiative involving ID scanners at several liquor outlets across Edmonton and Calgary.

Since the field test started in January 2020, the three stores participating in the initial field test have gone from a comparative 788 events combined to 52. A crime reduction of 93%. These three stores participating have saved over a combined $82,000. A 95% retention increase in otherwise stolen product when compared to a similar timeframe pre installation (584 days).

Based on this success, three high theft locations downtown were also equipped with controlled entrances. After 60 days, these locations are seeing a 95% reduction in theft/risk. In Calgary, two high theft locations after 120 days are seeing a 100% reduction in theft/risk. Above all, staff at these locations feel much safer, the shopping environments for customers are safer and the risk of violence has been greatly mitigated.

The controlled entrance and scanner concept in Alberta is the result of collaboration between the EPS and external partners who are experts in their respective fields. ALCANNA brought perspective from the retail industry. Launchcode (Patronscan) brought the technology and privacy expertise. Austin Securities brought store front integration. The EPS brought enforcement and legislation adherence.

Community Solutions Accelerator (CSA) $250,000 challenge

The first-ever challenge to be examined using the new ground-breaking Accelerator concept will focus on finding solutions to address the chronic problem of liquor store thefts in Edmonton. The initial project to be undertaken by the CSA will be funded with a grant of up to $500,000 from ALCANNA, Canada’s largest private sector liquor retailer.

Half of the $500,000 grant will be used as “prize money”, which will be awarded to the entrepreneur(s) who produce solutions that dramatically reduce liquor store thefts, using the CSA integrated data, potential hardware or other material effects and artificial intelligence. The remaining $250,000 will go towards the administration and commercialization of the potential solution(s), which would then be brought to market.

In August 2020, the winning proposal to address liquor store theft was submitted to the EPF’s CSA competition by Grant MacEwan’s Social Innovation Institute.

The MacEwan bid identified that an effective intervention point to deter thefts is at the point of resale. This approach targets those restaurants, bars and nightclubs who purchase stolen liquor so they can resell to an unsuspecting public. 

The Social Innovation Institute proposed the development and implementation of a high-profile awareness campaign, the use of hidden tracking devices in bottles, and a whistle-blower cash prize targeted at restaurant employees who tip off police about their establishments buying stolen liquor.

The purpose of all these measures is to cause those bars, restaurants, and nightclubs now purchasing stolen liquor to be fearful of being caught and prosecuted, which could have a significant negative effect on their business and the loss of their liquor license and/or criminal charges. The campaign will also focus on educating the public about the issue, giving them a sense of responsibility and inclusion in the solution.

Visit www.behindtheliquor.com to learn more.