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Winnipeg police say new program aimed at reducing shoplifting is working

Winnipeg police say new program aimed at reducing shoplifting is working
Winnipeg police say new program aimed at reducing shoplifting is working

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is committing $1.1 million to address rising shoplifting and violent crime in some parts of Winnipeg.

The temporary program was announced in May, with no cost estimate and few details, as a way to pay police to work overtime in hot spots like stores and shopping malls. The program focuses on three areas of the city: the Exchange District, Osborne Village and the West End.

The $1.1 million will allow the program to continue through the end of August, said Attorney General Matt Wiebe.

Winnipeg police hailed the program as a success, arresting 203 people in recent weeks.

“These are all proactive arrests that would not have happened if this funding had not been available,” Supt. Cam Mackid said Wednesday.

“All of the officers making these arrests are working overtime. They are doing work that is above and beyond what we would normally do on a daily basis.”

According to police, 31 tickets were also issued for violations such as trespassing and $8,800 worth of goods were seized.

Brian Scharfstein, owner of a chain of shoe stores, says he and his staff have noticed a change: There are more officers on foot and visible in the area.

“We are definitely seeing a decrease in the number of incidents,” he said.

Winnipeg saw a series of high-profile crimes at retail stores over the winter and spring, including one in which three employees of a family-owned grocery store were attacked and injured. A convenience store robbery in May involved a suspect spraying bear spray on an employee and two customers.

Wiebe indicated that a program to reduce retail crime would be continued after August.

“We will look at ways to collaborate with the police and build on these good initiatives,” said Wiebe.

The province also plans to host a public safety summit, in partnership with indigenous groups, law enforcement agencies and victim support organizations.

Wednesday’s announcement came a day after the province released money to improve safety and addiction services in downtown Winnipeg. Money was allocated for a new rehab centre and more foot patrols were carried out by community safety officers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 10, 2024.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press