Rise in liquor store thefts leads province to launch working group

Above: James Burns, CEO of Alcanna, Minister Doug Schweitzer, MLA Brad Rutherford, and Cst. Robyn Wilson, Edmonton Police Service, announced action to fight robberies and thefts targeting liquor stores. Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, has appointed Brad Rutherford, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont, to chair the working group, which will examine the recent spike in crimes targeting liquor stores.

by Morinville News Staff

Liquor store thefts in Edmonton tripled in 2019 over the previous year. With more than 9,500 liquor store thefts in Edmonton alone last year, the government has established a working group to combat what the UCP says is a growing public safety threat posed by liquor store robberies and thefts.

“Criminals and gangs are preying on hard-working, law-abiding Albertans and business owners,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Doug Schweitzer said in a media release Monday. “Our government will work with our partners in law enforcement and in the industry to deter liquor store thefts through better prevention and ensuring appropriate consequences for the perpetrators.”

In addition to costing retailers millions of dollars in financial losses and placing a significant strain on police resources, the government says the current trend poses a continued risk of violence toward workers and bystanders.

Brad Rutherford, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont, will serve as chair.
Rutherford served as a member of the Edmonton Police Service for ten years. He is joined by working group members James Stiles, executive advisor to senior ADM, Justice and Solicitor General; Ivonne Martinez, president, Alberta Liquor Store Association; Sarah Langley, executive director, Alberta Crown Prosecution Service; Acting Supt. Leah Barber, Calgary Police Service; Supt. Terry Rocchio, Edmonton Police Service; Supt. Peter Tewfik, RCMP, “K” Division; and Rob Pape, director, Compliance, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis.

“This is an important crime and safety issue that requires thoughtful action, Rutherford said. “Our partners bring a considerable amount of knowledge and expertise to the discussion, and I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas. Together, we can make a difference.”

The government says there is evidence the increase in liquor thefts is being fueled by criminal gangs in Edmonton and Calgary. These gangs are coordinated, allowing large quantities of liquor to be stolen in a short time. It is believed the stolen merchandise is used as a street currency to pay for illegal goods and activities.

The group will weigh a broad range of actions to deter liquor store thefts, including security features for stores, enforcement strategies, legal measures and deterrence measures, as well as steps taken in other jurisdictions.

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