A flood of thefts at the city’s Liquor Marts — highlighted by a vicious assault that left an employee in critical condition — has drained away since secured entrances and controlled admissions were installed at every location in the city.
Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries said Monday thefts have dropped from costing the provincial corporation $2.3 million between April 1, 2019 to Dec. 31, 2019, to only $193,000 during the same time period in 2020.
"All of us at Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries are pleased with the results the controlled entrances have had in significantly reducing the incidents of thefts -- and especially robberies -- at our Liquor Marts," said Manny Atwal, MLL’s president and CEO.
"To be able to return our stores to a place where our customers and employees are able to shop and work without the looming threat of violence has been a great relief."
A MLL spokesperson said as of last month all 36 Liquor Marts in Winnipeg have the controlled entrances installed as well as the four Liquor Marts in Brandon, two in Portage la Prairie and one in Selkirk.
Thieves began robbing Liquor Marts with impunity in 2019, with many filling up bags with several bottles before simply walking out of the store while employees watched. During one violent theft at the outlet at the Tyndall Market mall in Nov. 2019, a female employee was punched in the face and taken to hospital in critical condition and had a broken jaw.
But after MLL began changing entrances to the outlets, including having controlled admissions, the drop in thefts has been so dramatic that the five Liquor Marts visited the most by thieves went from having 2,633 thefts in the six months before the installation of controlled entrances to only 66 thefts in the six months afterwards, a drop of 97.5 per cent.
A spokesperson says the number of thefts is now so low MLL can just send police identification information on the suspects.
The controlled entrances were budgeted to cost about $2.5 million, but a MLL spokesperson says the initiative is expected to have come under budget.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.