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Retail Council of Canada looks to reduce shoplifting, violence at stores

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 Canadian businesses and police services are working together to cut down on retail theft and violence.

Rui Rodrigues with the Retail Council of Canada told CTV News Atlantic’s Todd Battis in an interview Monday it launched a loss prevention task force a year-and-a-half ago to bring together police and businesses so they could figure out a joint approach to tackling retail crime.

“We have organized events with police and retailers where we can blitz areas where we see retail crime,” Rodrigues said. “We have 60 police services across the country that participate regularly. It’s a continued effort.”

Last October, Cape Breton Regional Police conducted a 10-day blitz, responding to more than 50 shoplifting-related incidents and charging six people.

Retailers in Atlantic Canada and beyond have expressed frustration and concern over what many of them see as a rising level of shoplifting and violence at their stores. Rodrigues noted while it’s hard to get concrete statistics on such a rise, anecdotally the Retail Council has heard thefts could be up by 30-to-50 per cent.

“It’s always been a challenge on how we measure losses,” he said. “We’re working on producing a retail crime report for Canada so we can get better data, it’s really more the violence that we’re concerned about.”

In 2021, Statistics Canada reported a 1,484 per cent rate change in shoplifting under $5,000 in Halifax compared to 2020.

Thefts outside of shoplifting are also problems in Atlantic Canada. Earlier this year, the New Brunswick RCMP announced they will no longer respond to gas pump thefts unless there is an immediate or ongoing threat to public safety.

“Between 2020 and 2023 we had roughly 5,200 (gas theft) complaints in the province of New Brunswick,” said Gary Forward, president of the New Brunswick Association of Chiefs of Police, in a previous interview.

Rodrigues said the Retail Council plans to continue working with government and police to address crimes in stores.

“Everyone’s vulnerable,” he said. “Criminals will go where there’s merchandise that can be resold. A small business owner might not have a loss prevention officer or guard; in that case some smaller businesses would be more vulnerable.”

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