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This article was published 26/11/2018 (666 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
More than two months after rampant and unobstructed liquor store thefts began making headlines in Winnipeg, the provincial Crown corporation is remaining tight-lipped about what – if anything – has been done to address the situation.
On Monday, days after another liquor mart security guard was assaulted by thieves, a Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries spokeswoman said progress has been made on arresting those responsible for the uptick in thefts.
However, she declined comment on whether any policy changes have been implemented to better protect staff and deter would-be thieves.
"More than 20 top offenders who are responsible for committing thefts at our Liquor Marts have been arrested," said MLL communications officer Susan Harrison in a written statement.
"As we have previously stated, talking about security and anti-theft policies in a public forum compromises the safety of our staff and customers and undermines the effectiveness of solutions to the problem."
On Saturday night, a security guard was hit with a bottle during a theft at a Liquor Mart on Henderson Highway near McLeod Avenue. Four thieves, one of whom was reportedly armed with bear spray, walked out of the store with liquor bottles and assaulted the security guard on the way. The employee was treated for minor injuries and police have not announced any arrests.
It’s just one example of violence at local liquor marts in 2018 – a year which has seen an uptick in violent thefts and increasingly brazen perpatrators.
In September, a rash of local liquor thefts ended up in the news after it was revealed MLL had instructed its employees and security guards not to physically intervene when people stole from stores. This resulted in thieves walking out with handfuls of bottles unobstructed.
At a press conference at the time, Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Jay Murray expressed frustration at the rising thefts and the draining effect they were having on police resources. He also said police believed much of the stolen merchandise was being re-sold online shortly after the crimes.
Manitoba Government and General Employees Union president Michelle Gawronsky said this weekend’s incident highlights the ongoing need for policy changes.
"The fact these robberies keep happening shows how urgently we need to see changes happen to upgrade and strengthen health and safety protocols at liquor marts, and we remain committed to being part of the solution," Gawronsky said in a written statement.
"We know liquor mart employees have valuable insight on how to improve safety and we encourage (MLL) to tap into their knowledge."
An MGEU spokeswoman added the Crown corporation has held discussions with the union and it is believed high-end product is no longer being stocked on the shelves.
In September, MLL announced that within the past 12 months thieves had made off with roughly $800,000 worth of merchandise from its stores, although that figure represented a very small amount compared to its annual profits.
The WPS also reported in September that it had received more than 1,200 reports of liquor thefts on the year. However, an MLL employee who spoke to the Free Press said the Crown corporation wasn’t notifying the police about every theft.
At the time, MLL released a statement indicating it would discuss the matter with the WPS and the MGEU in an effort to find a solution to the ongoing problem.
On Monday, the Crown coporation reiterated that it won’t discuss policy matters or safety protocols with the media.
"We will not be providing any additional comments on our current security policies or any changes we have implemented or are considering," Harrison said.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.
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