Retail crime task force unveiled by Manitoba government

Nearly a year after soaring retail thefts made constant news headlines and the situation was called “the darkest time in Winnipeg history,” the Manitoba government has established a new retail crime task force.

“In the past three years, retailers have seen retail thefts increase by over 125 per cent, and violent crime targeted at businesses and employees is also on the rise,” Justice Minister Cliff Cullen said on Tuesday.

“The Manitoba government is pleased to partner with the private sector to create this new task force, which will work collaboratively to address these issues and support retail communities throughout the province.”

The task force is comprised of representatives from Manitoba Justice, the Winnipeg Police Service, the RCMP, national, local and independent retailers, private security firms, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries, Commissionaires Manitoba and the Retail Council of Canada.

The group will share best practices and seek out innovative ideas to address possible prevention, suppression and intervention strategies, a provincial news release stated.

It will also work to identify potential loss prevention strategies to address the root causes of retail theft, and review initiatives and programs that have been successful in other jurisdictions, Cullen said.

The creation of a task force was a recommendation of the Manitoba retail crime round table, hosted in January by six local business associations with more than 90 participants representing 68 private and public-sector organizations, Cullen said.

John Graham, the Retail Council of Canada’s director of government relations for the Prairie region, called the task force a “collaborative response to crime that is undermining the safety and viability of retailer stores across this province.”

The province has also launched what it calls “an operations table” that brings law enforcement and justice personnel together with the goal of reducing the number of thefts and robberies from retailers.

“Our partnership with the Manitoba government is allowing us to better identify and apprehend chronic offenders involved in retail theft,” said Winnipeg police Insp. Shawn Pike.

Project Stop Lifting, a joint initiative of the Winnipeg Police Service and Manitoba Justice, has led to 35 arrests and 529 charges being laid since July 10. 

Members of the retail crime task force are:

  • John Graham, co-chair.
  • Shannon Martin, MLA, McPhillips, co-chair.
  • Scott Kolody, associate deputy minister for Manitoba Justice.
  • Michele Jules, executive director for the Manitoba Prosecutions Service.
  • RCMP Chief Supt. Rob Hill.
  • WPS Deputy Chief Jeff Szyszkowski.
  • Bryan Payne, Commissionaires Manitoba.
  • Damien Smith, district loss prevention officer for Rexall Pharmacy Group.
  • Brian Scharfstein, Canadian Footwear.
  • Shawn McGurk, director of corporate security and surveillance for Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries.
  • Scott Young, vice-president of Western Canada for Garda World security.
  • Rick Linden, professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Manitoba.

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