December 6, 2019

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Liquor Mart security: all about location, location, location

The security guard stands at the door, blocking the customer’s path into the North End liquor store until a driver’s licence is produced. A second security guard, stationed nearby, asks another would-be shopper to submit to a search of her purse.

Meanwhile, across Winnipeg, customers stroll into Liquor Marts without a word from staff or a security guard in sight. The only evidence of the new anti-theft measures being rolled out are signs standing tall near store entrances.

These are some of the scenes the Free Press witnessed Tuesday, while spending time at four city Liquor Marts: Main Street and Pritchard Avenue, Cityplace, Osborne Village, and Grant Park Shopping Centre.

The observations are testament to Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries Corp.'s decision to implement new security strategies — announced March 21, in response to rising theft rates — in a targeted fashion, with different techniques rolled out at different stores.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bottle locks, an example of the new theft prevention measures, are seen at the St. James Superstore Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bottle locks, an example of the new theft prevention measures, are seen at the St. James Superstore Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.

Tighter security protocols were upfront and visible at the Main Street and Cityplace locations, while the scene at Osborne Village and Grant Park were much more relaxed.

On Main Street, two security guards stationed at the front entrance were quick to approach certain customers, either asking to see a piece of identification or imposing a bag check. Others, however, were allowed to walk right in.

At the store on the first floor of the Cityplace complex, a single security guard posted near the entrance asked to see photo identification for a handful of customers immediately upon arrival. One woman was turned away from the store, while a man — who appeared intoxicated — was refused service at the till.

At the Osborne Village and Grant Park locations, there were no security guards stationed at the entrances and no customers were subjected to bag or ID checks by staff.

The Crown corporation confirmed Tuesday it’s still in the process of rolling out all its strategies in Winnipeg and some tactics will only show up at certain locations.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Active alarm pedestals at the St. James Superstore Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Active alarm pedestals at the St. James Superstore Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.

"We have already implemented a number of the new anti-theft measures announced in March, but will continue to implement others in Liquor Marts over the coming weeks and months," an MLL spokeswoman said in a written statement.

"While we are not disclosing what measures are being put into place at specific locations, I can confirm that we are trying various tactics to determine which combination is the most effective for our stores."

The spokeswoman also said it’s too early to provide details on what impact the changes have had so far.

The rash of thefts that have plagued Winnipeg Liquor Marts during the past year has been widely reported in the media.

In 2017, there were 658 thefts at liquor stores reported to the Winnipeg Police Service. That figure jumped to 2,602 in 2018, which eventually led a police spokesman to say the Crown corporation needed to do a better job on its side.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Bottle locks, an example of the new theft prevention measures, at seen the St. James Superstore Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Bottle locks, an example of the new theft prevention measures, at seen the St. James Superstore Liquor Mart in Winnipeg.

MLL has previously said it lost roughly $800,000 last year due to "shrinkage," which includes both thefts and damaged product.

The sharp spike in incidents drew the ire of the public after it was revealed the Crown corporation had instructed its staff and security guards to never physically intervene during a suspected theft.

"While there’s no one tactic that will eliminate theft from Liquor Marts, it is our hope that these measures together will give us new tools to deter theft while allowing us to identify and track the people committing these crimes," the MLL spokeswoman wrote.

In addition to in-store changes such as locked display cases or controlled entrances and exits, MLL has also announced it will hire and train new loss-prevention officer teams that will be authorized to use citizens’ powers of arrest to apprehend thieves who leave a store.

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

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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