One day after the vicious assault of three Liquor Mart employees — with one taken to hospital in critical condition — all Winnipeg outlets will soon be fortified with new security measures, including locked, controlled entrances, and customers will have to show photo identification.
Manitoba Liquor & Lotteries announced Thursday the Tyndall Market location will be the first to have beefed-up security features, which are expected to be in place next week. The 30 other locations will suit in the next few months.
"A controlled entrance project has already been underway for a few weeks, with the aim to prevent thieves from entering the store," the statement said.
"The way you shop at Liquor Marts is changing. In the coming weeks and months, our customers need to be aware of what to expect when they come to our stores."
Once retrofitted with a controlled entrance, the inner doors of an outlet will be locked, with a security station checking valid photo identification before allowing entrance. Acceptable ID includes a valid driver's licence, Manitoba ID card, passport, certificate of Indian status, or two forms of government-issued identification, one of which includes a photo, MLL said.
Minors will no longer be allowed inside a Liquor Mart, even if they are accompanied by an adult.
"As a modern retailer, we have tried to balance employee and customer safety with an enjoyable shopping experience," the statement said. "Unfortunately, rising crime in the city has left us no option but to take these drastic measures.
"We know you will be inconvenienced, and we are sorry, but the safety of our employees and customers comes first."
“All sorts of stores are seeing very aggressive people coming in and what used to be a shoplifting incident is turning into an armed robbery.” -Const. Rob Carver
In the wake of Wednesday's violent robbery, brightly coloured signs of support for injured Liquor Mart staff were taped to the windows and doors of the shuttered Tyndall Market location.
"Our community cares about staff safety," reads one.
Others included: "Criminals never win!" and "Tyndall Park is full of good people: be one!"
On Thursday, more details of the chaos that took place at the Keewatin Street liquor mart and shopping centre were made public.
Winnipeg Police Service spokesman Const. Rob Carver said three suspects, who were armed with knives, entered the Liquor Mart.
A video that surfaced online shows a hooded suspect shoving a security guard and punching two female employees in the head while a masked thief ransacks the store. A woman who was working by the cash register is assaulted, and knocked to the floor.
The employee was taken to hospital unconscious and in critical condition. She has since been upgraded to stable, Carver said, but her injuries should not be underestimated.
After fleeing the Liquor Mart, Carver said the suspects moved onto another store in the mall and assaulted an employee. One suspect — a 15-year-old male — was arrested after further threatening two other patrons in the parking lot, police said.
“Yesterday forever changed retail history in Winnipeg... This was the start of a new era in retail conduct.” -Ron D’Errico, president and CEO of Impact Security
"This particular incident is not unique to what our officers are seeing and it’s not unique to Liquor Marts," Carver said. "All sorts of stores are seeing very aggressive people coming in and what used to be a shoplifting incident is turning into an armed robbery."
Carver said hundreds of people have been arrested for liquor theft in recent months.
The 15-year-old faces 18 charges, including three counts of assault and six counts of robbery. He cannot be identified under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Details of changes coming to Liquor Marts under the controlled-entrance project.
Under the controlled-entrance project:
• All Winnipeg Liquor Marts will be retrofitted with controlled entrances.
• At these stores the inner Liquor Mart door will be locked, and customers will be required to show valid photo identification at a security station before being allowed entry to the store.
• The same forms of ID that are already accepted for proof of age are being accepted for entry. These include a valid driver’s licence, Manitoba ID card, passport and certificate of Indian status. Alternatively, two forms of government-issued identification must be shown, one of which must be photo ID. Examples include a permanent resident card, Canadian Forces ID card and Canadian firearms licence.
• Minors will no longer be permitted in these Liquor Marts, even when accompanied by an adult.
"Yesterday forever changed retail history in Winnipeg," said Ron D’Errico, president and chief executive officer of Impact Security. "This was the start of a new era in retail conduct."
D’Errico said MLL would likely take things a step further in the future, by scanning ID to determine whether an individual has been banned from a store.
The MLL’s enhanced security system announcement "has some definite merit," Carver said.
“This means that the store will be locked and customers will be required to show valid photo-ID at a security station before being allowed to enter the store." -Manny Atwal, MLL president and CEO
The Crown corporation and police have, for months, warned customers not to intervene as the number of liquor-store thefts has skyrocketed across the province. Carver said such incidents occur 20 to 30 times a day at locations across the city.
At the River and Osborne Liquor Mart on Thursday afternoon, Linda Turner said she was in favour of ramping up security any way possible.
"I don’t care if I have to jump through hoops. I’m OK with that — as long as everybody’s safe," Turner said.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents Liquor Mart employees, had voiced its support for the secure-entrance initiative. It wants the province to organize a summit to address the larger issue of theft.
Maggie Macintosh is a reporter who covers every beat in the newsroom. She appreciates alliteration, when newspaper ink stains her fingertips and, more importantly, tips on social and environmental equity issues.
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Updated on Thursday, November 21, 2019 at 12:13 PM CST: Adds related stories
12:58 PM: Adds video
1:32 PM: Corrects MLL announcement date
1:45 PM: corrects spelling of Atwal
3:06 PM: full write-thru, adds second video
5:32 PM: Adds statement from MLL.
7:50 PM: Full write through.