The Vancouver Police Department says it collaborated with 28 businesses over three weeks to catch more than 200 alleged shoplifters.
VPD says it staged officers outside participating retailers who have had regular issues with theft and were able to immediately arrest people caught stealing. In total, 217 people were taken into custody between Feb. 15 and March 10, 47 of whom are repeat offenders.
In at least three of the instances, staff at the businesses said they were threatened with weapons.
VPD says in one case a man with 37 prior convictions brandished a knife while stealing from two separate downtown dollar stores.
In another instance, a different man threatened to kill a staff member while stealing from a downtown clothing store. Police say he was arrested four times throughout their anti-shoplifting project.
A third suspect stole $1,100 in merchandise from a home hardware store in East Vancouver while threatening store security with a machete.
VPD says each of the three has since been released from custody.
In total, officers seized 24 weapons during the project. The department says in 2022 it responded to an average of 20 violent shoplifting incidents a month. That’s since dropped by 45 per cent in the first three months of 2023.
Beyond preventing violence, VPD says the project was also intended to reduce financial loss for businesses. During the three weeks, the department recovered $79,679 in stolen merchandise.
Walley Wargolet, executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Society, said in a statement they need some kind of change to make owning a business sustainable.
“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.”
VPD says it found the most frequently targeted businesses were mid-sized ones like London Drugs, grocery stores, dollar stores and clothing retailers.