Winnipeg police are stepping up efforts to curb shoplifting after seeing a spike in retail theft during the first eight months of the year.
Police responded to 3745 incidents of shoplifting from January to August, a 44-per-cent increase compared with the same time period in 2022, officials said at a news conference Monday.
However, more concerning is that these thieves are becoming more brazen and sometimes violent, said Insp. Jennifer McKinnon with the Winnipeg Police Service.
“The day of hiding an item in your jacket or bag and slipping out of the store unnoticed are long gone,” she said.
“We see suspects brazenly enter stores, taking items with no efforts to conceal them and brandishing a weapon at employees, security and any customers that are in their way.”
In response, the police service has been partnering with the local business community and Retail Council of Canada since the start of November to conduct focussed enforcement and prevention.
So far, 151 people have been arrested in connection with the initiative, McKinnon said.
Last week alone, officers arrested 15 people suspected of shoplifting at Polo Park Shopping Centre and recovered more than $6,000 worth of stolen property.
They also arrested 10 people at Kildonan Crossing Shopping Centre for shoplifting and recovered more than $2,300 worth of goods, McKinnon said.
The initiative is focussed on organized crime: People stealing items in bulk with the intention of reselling them, she said.
“This is a problem within our city where we have people going into grocery stores and taking trays of meat and selling them, people coming into larger box stores and taking carts of tools or clothing items … that kind of stuff we’re seeing a real increase in.”
To date, officers have been targeting the downtown area, Kildonan Crossing and Polo Park based on data analysis of where retail theft is most prevalent, as well as requests from retailers.