Joint anger. Joint anger. Shared frustration. And maybe, just maybe, some good ideas about how to stop, or at least slow down, spiral theft problems at the LCBO.
That was the push for reaction to Star's revelation on Saturday that LCBO outlets in Toronto have experienced a surge in theft, reaching more than 9,000 times since 2014 – often in high-volume robberies where teams of thieves fill backpacks, backpacks and suitcases with premium liquor and then leave so only
The Star's cry for eyewitnesses, a number of which we publish below, including the input of a surprising number of people on both sides of the cashier: customers who have seen it happen, throughout the city and far outside; and LCBO workers who have suffered for a long time, past and present, which confirm the devastating reality of feeling helpless and insecure when they try to do their jobs.
An LCBO female worker reaches out from rural Ontario, requesting that we do not publish her name or city, citing fear of reprisals. "I work in a very small shop and I can tell you that theft is worse here. I am a young single mother and often work alone, which is very scary. Unfortunately I have served drunk men because they were too aggressive and I was afraid of what would happen if I refused them.
"We have asked for more and better security cameras because what we have does not include shops. We were rejected. I'm happy to see & # 39; settings & # 39; The LCBO made more efforts to show that employee safety was taken seriously. "
Data on theft The rattling Toronto Police Station produced serious numbers: more than 9,000 thefts in LCBO outlets in the last four and a half years (January 1, 2014 to June 26, 2018). It makes the Ontario Liquor Control Board far and away the most targeted retail entity in the city. And although retailers as a whole have reported a large jump in city shoplifting incidents – 11,010 thefts in 2014 versus 16,667 in the first 10 months of 2018 – a surge in liquor theft seems to be the biggest single driver.
LCBO thefts are surging in Toronto, often when staff stand and watch. & # 39; They are really just walking & # 39;
The LCBO rejected a request for an interview about Star's findings. Instead, provincial-owned liquor retailers respond in writing to a summary of problematic data, acknowledging, "We can confirm that the LCBO sees an increase in store theft, with the majority occurring in urban areas."
As Star reported on Saturday, none of the explanations dismantled the entire LCBO problem, which, in Toronto, some observers said was exacerbated by the new police policy not to respond to the place of theft of liquor unless the suspect was still in the building. And there is no broad response wherever there are indications that frontline LCBO staff are guilty. The broad consensus is that they are protected, not blamed.
One signal we can read from the response – the public has a voice in this matter and when it sounds loud enough, the action will follow. Although there has been no police effort in the entire city to stop liquor theft, the new ongoing pilot program involving 14 Community Response Units only exists because the people – LCBO customers who witnessed theft – asked for it.
Likewise, residents of eastern Toronto Jane Archibald, an "angry citizen and taxpayer" who described herself after witnessing thieves filled "big things" with liquor and fled the LCBO near Carlaw Ave. and Gerrard St. in November, shared with Star on Saturday about his correspondence with Board Member Paula Fletcher, LCBO, Mayor John Tory, Prime Minister Doug Ford and the Toronto Police Priority Response Command.
"The LCBO responds the next day (adding) a security guard. I was told that they worked to improve security. "The theft has declined at Gerrard's location as a result," Archibald, who intends to continue to be nervous, said. "This is a police problem that makes retail employees very vulnerable."
Here follows a cross section of responses to Star's request for eyewitnesses about theft at the LCBO. Some anecdotes involve customers who take it to engage in a level of risk that ignores police advice. We can only add our voices to those who request maximum restrictions when shopping for liquor:
"About two years ago I was at the LCBO in Davenport near Dupont and I saw a man filling his bag with vodka from the screen near the entrance. We all stood up and watched as he tied the bag to his back and walked out the door. I asked the (cashier) if he had seen anything like that. "That happened," I remember him saying.
– Mary Kirley
"I was at the LCBO in Warden and Eglinton in the summer. This person sailed through the cashier with 60 ounces of vodka in each hand, pretending to speak on the telephone. A cashier said, "Sir, are you paying for it?" He ignored it. I and a man in front of me offered to release them from that person but they told us not to do it. Then they proceeded to write down the incident in a book and proceed as if nothing had happened. Customers were astonished at the level of apathy and lack of effort to stop the person. When I left, the man was walking in Eglinton without caring in the world. It's sad when civilized and law-abiding customers seem to be the only ones who care about theft, and stop it. "
– Graham Kritzer
"At LCBO in Junction, I saw two men in backpacks filling it with liquor and walking out the door when staff stood up and did nothing. I asked and they said they were not allowed to pursue anyone who was caught stealing! This makes sense because of personal security reasons but it is definitely a big problem. "
– Sue St. Denis
"I saw it on the LCBO at Oakwood and St. Clair. A hooded man, filling his jacket with a bottle of liquor. I suggested an unconscious employee and staff told the person to return the bottle and leave, which he did. I am sure this result is rare If we are going to continue with the monopoly system 'unique' in this province, I think going back to the pre-80s ordering table format would be the best way to stop this. Instead of paper, your digital screen or cellphone might be being a selection tool. Encouraging more online purchases and in-store pickup and minimizing / minimizing their luxury sales is another idea. After all, the final goal is certainly not to remain at the forefront of competition when it doesn't exist. "
– Jason Dear
"I think that's because the cost of liquor is very low compared to the retail price, which includes a large amount of taxes, so the actual losses are minimal. If the perpetrators are arrested and punished, these costs will far outweigh the disadvantages, so it seems that the current solution works and is cheaper for the community to allow them to continue shoplifting. In addition, the police cannot be involved in small amounts without violence. "
– David Franklin
"Given the costs of theft, why not hire police who are not on duty and disguised, at least in the shops that are most often affected? Or maybe the security guards make customers check their bags at the front desk? We need to improve this problem, immediately and quickly. The response so far seems to be purely apathetic with the costs of taxpayers. Where is the brave leadership in this matter? "
– C.L. Cateshaw
"Here in Mexico, where I spend the winter, many businesses install guards with assault rifles, machine guns or combat guns at the door. They don't get a lot of visits from punk-and-take punk. "
– Tom Philip
"Four young people walk to the store (Beaches LCBO) with a bandana on their faces, fill a backpack and a reusable shopping bag with 6-15 bottles of wine and liquor and just walk out. They are inside maybe for 30 seconds. Nobody did anything. When I blocked the exit with my hand to try and block one of them, an employee told me not to so I dropped my arm and let the person go. This was a few years ago around this time of year, but it was very organized and really strange. "
– James Di Fiore
"I live in Saskatoon, a government-run liquor store that has high security guards to prevent theft. And they caught shoplifters. I have seen people stepping on the ground. "
– Ellen Armstrong
"Interesting article about LCBO theft in Toronto, but after working for The Beer Store for more than 10 years I feel compelled to mention that this happens every day at The Beer Store too. The amount of stock coming out of the front door was very shocking. And usually in a way that is insolent because often the perpetrator knows there is nothing we can or will do. Unfortunately, we are also threatened every day. "
– Name withheld
"I worked for the LCBO for more than 38 years. I have seen shoplifting. Staff notified of interacting with shoplifters – just watch and report it. Management will notify employees to try to kill shoplifters properly. A lot of time, employees will only turn around and walk away, knowing that nothing will come from that incident. This is discouraging for staff. I hope more employees tell their stories so that the LCBO will act. "
– Kenny McGillvary
"A few summers ago at the LCBO at Bayview and Millwood, I saw a man filling a backpack with liquor and elbows past me when I opened the door. … Exactly a week later I got out of my car near the same place and the same man passed by with a full bag. He had to go somewhere – so I returned to the car and tracked him from a distance to the side of the road where the car was waiting. I pulled back and made it like I was checking a house number or something. Meanwhile, I took the plate number and then gave it to the staff. I always wondered if anything concrete came from that. I must think the police finally did something. The point is that thieves always go somewhere with 50 pounds of bottles on their shoulders. So where? I asked a question and took it. Although the police may have different opinions about whether it is the wisest choice. "
– Christopher Childs
"In the summer of 2017, I witnessed a robbery like this at Coxwell and Queen: the perpetrator had a basket full of large bottles of premium liquor. Walk past cash and exit the front door. We all see it, customers and staff. I took out my cellphone and recorded it. Run out and follow him across the Queen to the parking lot behind Harvey. He calmly lowered the bottles into his SUV and left. I called the police and reported it. From reading this article, I know he escaped and nothing was done about it. I was surprised to hear that the LCBO was the biggest retail target for theft and very little was done to stop it, because taxpayers consumed the cost … I was also surprised that the police would not respond unless the thief was still in possession; because this is basically a collision, law enforcement has a negligible impact on preventing these crimes. What now? The LCBO shop is just a sitting duck? As a Toronto resident and taxpayer, I want to hear what was said (Toronto Police Chief) Mark Saunders and (Prime Minister) Doug Ford.
– Pamela Capraru
"I work at the LCBO. I witnessed three thefts last month. Sad but the fact that we can't do anything. I say this because the thieves returned because there was no threat to fight their actions. Yes, we saw it on CCTV but we couldn't stop them from leaving or even touching it. They can sue us for returning because they have the right to prevent this action. What can we do, advice? The bottle lock can be removed with a screwdriver. The truth is that theft will continue and the taxpayer will pay it. We witness a perfect crime. It's ironic.
– Gloria Hunter
Mitch Potter is a reporter and feature writer based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @ Mpites