The Liquor Control Board of Ontario is ramping up security measures at some of its locations across the province amid reports of an increase in brazen thefts at liquor stores.
A statement from the LCBO on Saturday said it is adding security guards at select stores to ensure the safety and security of its staff and customers.
The LCBO statement said the Crown corporation will implement “industry-leading” technology at some of its stores to prevent thefts, although it has not provided further details on what that technology is.
Last month, the LCBO said it increased spending on CCTV technology and other in-store deterrents.
The LCBO statement said it will also be training employees on how to take “safe actions” during thefts and how to be a credible witness to the crimes.
Earlier this month, Toronto police arrested two suspects believed to have been involved in up to 40 separate thefts from LCBO stores in the past three months, resulting in the retail loss of about $92,000.
Toronto police spokesman Const. David Hopkinson said in a statement that officers have been responding to a rising number of theft calls at liquor stores “over the past few years,” and that the incidents are becoming increasingly aggressive.
Hopkinson said there were 5,160 thefts in 2017 and 8,664 in 2018 at Toronto LCBO outlets. He said most of the thefts have occurred in downtown locations.
“Many of those suspects were increasingly aggressive, working in groups, and intimidating staff. They often filled large bags with alcohol, stealing hundreds of dollars of product,” said Hopkinson.
Hopkinson said liquor theft calls are deemed “priority 2,” which require two officers to attend in a police car. He said liquor is usually stolen quickly and suspects are often gone by the time officers arrive at the scene.
“At a time when there is increased pressure to our resources, this is inefficient,” said Hopkinson.
He said that, in the service’s effort to “modernize” reporting procedures, these calls will be directed to an online reporting process, along with gas and other retail thefts. He said while an investigation will still continue, online reporting will allow front-line officers to respond to “more emergent incidents.”
Hopkinson also said the police force is working with some downtown LCBO stores to prevent large-scale thefts. He said investigators believe some of the liquor thefts support other “street-level criminal activity,” such as booze being sold in exchange for drugs.
Hopkinson said the LCBO has a policy to protect their staff, which includes employees being directed to not engage with thieves and to call police.