Vancouver – Vancouver Police made more than 200 arrests and recovered $80,000 in stolen merchandise during a three-week crackdown on chronic and violent shoplifters throughout the city.
“Retail crime is growing in major cities throughout North America, and in Vancouver we continue to see an alarming trend of repeat offenders and people using violence to commit their crimes,” says Staff Sergeant Mario Mastropieri, of VPD’s Operations Division. “Business owners are frustrated by the financial losses and by the danger employees face for merely coming to work to earn a living, so we’re doing everything we can to help everyone feel safe again.”
During the three-week operation, called Project Barcode, VPD officers worked closely with management, staff, and security at stores throughout the city to identify and arrest chronic and violent offenders. VPD officers staged outside participating retailers while staff inside the businesses watched for known offenders and other shoplifters. As the thieves made their way toward the exits, staff notified the waiting officers, who took the suspects into custody.
The cooperation between police and store staff allowed VPD to easily apprehend thieves, while minimizing the violence retail employees often face when attempted to stop people from stealing.
- 28 retailers participated in the project
- 280 thefts were investigated
- 217 people, with a combined total of 4,695 previous convictions, were arrested
- 278 criminal charges were recommend to Crown counsel
- 47 repeat offenders were arrested
- $79,679 in stolen merchandise was recovered and returned to store shelves
- 24 weapons were seized
“This operation is a very good example of applying solutions in areas where it is most needed”, says Tony Hunt, General Manager for London Drugs Loss Prevention. “We need this work to continue. We also need the support from government, police, and community organizations so front line retail workers don’t have to face violence and abuse.”
Mid-sized businesses like London Drugs, along with grocery stores, dollar-stores, and clothing retailers, were among the widest targeted by thieves during the three-week anti-shoplifting blitz, which ran February 15 to March 10.
Incidents of note:
- A man with 37 prior criminal convictions dating back to 2015 allegedly entered a dollar store near Granville and Dunsmuir, pulled out a knife to threaten staff, then exited the store with the merchandise he stole. The same man then went to another dollar store one block away, brandished a knife, and committed another theft. VPD officers arrested the suspect near Main and Hastings that same day. The suspect has been charged with possession of a weapon and uttering threats. He has been released from custody.
- A man walked into a downtown clothing store and threatened to kill staff with a knife before taking store merchandise and leaving the store. The suspect was arrested short distance away from the store, taken to jail and charged with assault with a weapon, theft over $5000, and two counts of fail to comply. He has since been released from custody. This suspect was arrested 4 times during the duration of this project by the project team.
- After stealing $1,100 in store merchandise from a home hardware store in East Vancouver, a suspect threatened store security with a machete. Officers located and arrested the suspect, who has been charged with robbery and has been released from custody.
“We appreciate the focus on shoplifting by the Vancouver Police Department, because we need a real change if we want to see our business districts thrive,” says Walley Wargolet, Executive Director Gastown Business Improvement Society. “The impact of shoplifting is devastating to our members, especially those smaller owner operator shops whose sole livelihood for their families rests on the success of their businesses.”
Though still vastly unreported by retailers, shoplifting incidents in Vancouver rose more than 30 per cent in 2022, compared to the previous year. On average, there were more than 20 violent shoplifting incidents reported to VPD each month last year.
Violent shopliftings – incidents where weapons and physical force is used during the commission of an offence – decreased 19 per cent during Project Barcode, and are down 45 per cent overall so far in 2023.