Police cracking down on holiday shoplifters in Metro Vancouver
Amid the holiday shopping frenzy, police in Metro Vancouver are working to nab shoplifters targeting major malls and making off with thousands of dollars' worth of stolen goods.
In a crackdown called “Project Mistletoe," Surrey RCMP began going after holiday shoplifters at area malls at the beginning of December. Over a two day span, officers arrested 19 suspected thieves at Guildford Town Centre and Central City Mall.
Vancouver police are also targeting shoplifters, arresting 195 people and recovering $75,000 worth of stolen goods in the last month.
“You can imagine it’s particularly bad during the holiday season. There is more merchandise out there, more people out and about, and more people looking for deals,” said Sgt. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department.
Much of the stolen merchandise is destined for an open air street market in the Downtown Eastside, which police said has been taken over by organized criminal networks who pay people to steal from stores.
“People who don’t live in the neighborhood ... are strictly coming there to buy and sell stolen merchandise. And it’s really fuelling an epidemic of shoplifting we are seeing throughout the city,” said Addison.
Shoplifters too often turn violent when confronted by store staff or security.
“You want to have a welcoming environment, but you can’t allow the items to be walking out the door without being paid for, and you can’t afford to have your staff being scared to work,” said Mike Jagger with Provident Security.
He told CTV News retail staff often recognize the shoplifters.
“By far the most frustrating thing that we see is the repeat offenders, and being able to see the same person over and over and over again,” said Jagger.
Police see them, too. “The people we are arresting are chronic offenders, they are people staff are telling us are coming back daily, weekly, stealing over and over and over again, with seeming impunity,” said Addison, who believes the root of the problem is homelessness, mental illness and addiction.
But he also believes people who knowingly buy stolen merchandise for themselves or to give as Christmas gifts are complicit.
“It’s certainly not a victimless crime,” said Addison. “For a small business owner who’s trying to make a go of it, who’s been hit hard, if they’re losing hundreds if not thousands a day in merchandise, that affects their bottom line and gets passed onto all of us at the end.”
The holiday shoplifting surge is particularly difficult for retailers who have suffered financially during the pandemic.
“It’s the most important time of the year for a retailer, especially this retail season where every type of retail store is trying to make up for many months of terrible sales. So it’s a crucial month, and it’s the busiest for shoplifting,” said Jagger.
“It’s just one more added cost that’s unreasonable and unfair for retailers, and the people that work in the store.”
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