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Edmonton Police Service

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Police calling on industry, all levels of government to take preventative action against liquor store theft issue

For Immediate Release: 28-Jul-2022 @ 11:27 AM
MRU #: 22R072

Since pandemic restrictions were lifted, thefts from liquor stores have been gradually rising, and the EPS is calling on retailers and all levels of government to take preventative action to reduce community risk.

The EPS is pointing to its recent proactive approach as a path forward. After noticing an increase in liquor theft/robbery events in 2018, along with a concerning rise in associated violence demonstrated by offenders, the EPS worked closely with community partners on a controlled entrance concept that was successfully trialed by Alcanna (now Sundial Growers). To date, this solution has shown to effectively reduce theft/robbery events and affiliated community risk by approximately 93% in former high-theft stores that have adopted the technology.

“We know that controlled entrances work, and it’s time to make them the industry-wide standard,” says Chief Dale McFee. “The recent rise in theft doesn’t just impact police resources and our front line, it also adversely impacts the safety of store staff and surrounding communities. This issue goes far beyond individual offenders, and repeatedly arresting them is not our path out of this problem – prevention is. This is a proven solution that every jurisdiction can benefit from.”

In 2018, the EPS recognized an increase in liquor theft/robbery events at liquor stores throughout the city and began actively tracking the number of reports. When the pandemic began in early 2020 and restrictions were put in place, officers were surprised to see a dramatic overall decrease in thefts.

Liquor store thefts reported

 

2020

2021

2022

January

1032

404

323

February

938

345

327

March

659

298

339

April

256

272

306

May

158

269

289

June

170

226

295

July

242

213

108*

August

370

194

 

September

354

257

 

October

430

278

 

November

519

268

 

December

320

206

 

 

 

 

 

Total

5448

3230

1987

*Year to date July, 17, 2022


“Unlike many retailers, liquor stores did not close during the pandemic,” says Acting Sergeant Ben Davis with the EPS Investigative Support Division.  “So, you would expect the trend of increasing theft and violence to either continue or increase.”

“When we noticed the numbers dramatically decrease, it confirmed our suspicions that there was more going on.”

In late 2020, investigators subsequently zeroed in on two prolific liquor thieves and uncovered a large market for stolen liquor and a coordinated distribution network that was supplying the liquor to legitimate local businesses.

“There is undoubtedly a link between liquor theft and organized crime in our city, as liquor has become one of the many commodities these groups use to conduct business,” says Davis.

Following the dramatic decrease, the number of theft reports remained lower than pre-pandemic numbers, with a gradual increase beginning in March 2022 when restrictions began lifting and licensed establishments fully reopened. Investigators suspect the number of thefts may be higher as many incidents go unreported.

“With licensed establishments operating in full swing, the market for stolen product is once again open and the gradual increase we are seeing is not surprising,” says Davis. “While most businesses are purchasing their liquor legally, those who are not are fueling this trend and the violence against store staff that often accompanies it.”

While the recent charges against 10 people are expected to disrupt the network uncovered by investigators, comparing the monthly thefts against those in 2021 indicate that thefts will increase again this year.  Assaults and robberies at liquor stores appear to be mirroring this trend.

 

“Now is the time for businesses and the government to take action and get ahead of this upward trending theft and violence,” says Davis.

 

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For media inquiries please contact the EPS Media Relations Unit at
780-421-3551.

"Dedicated to Protect, Proud to Serve"