Expansion of controlled entrance project at liquor stores planned amidst growing fears for safety of staff and public ‘TRAGEDY JUST WAITING TO HAPPEN’

Edmonton, Alberta – A collaborative and innovative pilot project aimed at reducing liquor store thefts, harm to store employees and the broader community is set to expand in early January 2021.

Launched in January 2020 as a test pilot by ALCANNA at three of its Edmonton liquor stores, the controlled entrance initiative involving ID scanners has seen 592 thefts and acts of violence combined in 2019 decreased to 36 this year.

The field test results, says EPS Const. Ben Davis, represent a dramatic crime reduction of 93 per cent.

“Staff at these three locations feel safer, the shopping environments for customers are safer and the risk of violence both in these stores and the surrounding communities has been greatly mitigated. This is truly significant. This also translates into a 95 per cent retention increase in product, when compared to a similar timeframe pre-installation,” says Davis, who along with various stakeholders has been coordinating a response to the chronic liquor theft issue in Edmonton since 2018.

Edmonton Police Service
Edmonton Police Service

So far in 2020, the EPS has responded and investigated 5,057 liquor theft events within Edmonton up to Dec. 10th. Averaging 15 events per day, the risk to the community and staff who work in this field are significant, says Davis.

In 2018, an ALCANNA employee sustained life-threatening injuries after being stabbed in the chest while trying to prevent a theft. Just last week, EPS officers responded to two violent robberies at liquors stores, where staff and loss prevention officers were bear sprayed.

“We have exhausted our in-house resources trying to manage this issue,” Davis said adding, “And as EPS Chief Dale McFee has stated many times before, we cannot arrest our way out of these problems. EPS is hemorrhaging upwards of $1 to $4 million in front-line resources in 2020 alone, responding to and investigating liquor theft. As we’ve mentioned publicly before, this is unsustainable for so many reasons, the most important of which is the increased risk to those who work in this industry, and to our communities across our province.”

Project stakeholders also continue to see stolen liquor used as a street level currency, exchanged for drugs, places to stay, property or sold for cash, which has become a lucrative trend for offenders.
As such, ALCANNA will begin expanding its controlled entrance scanner initiative early in 2021, which will see six additional ALCANNA stores within Edmonton equipped with scanners. For the first time, this initiative will also be expanded in the Calgary market beginning with four stores, in early 2021.

“The thefts and robberies are becoming more violent and Alcanna is in complete agreement with Chief McFee and the EPS view that the PatronScan (part of Launchcode) pilot project needs to be expanded now. Manitoba has made it mandatory in all liquor stores and their thefts and robberies have dropped to almost zero since.” said James Burns Vice -Chair and CEO of ALCANNA.

Government support for this initiative is required to ensure a uniform approach to this issue across the province, explained EPS Chief Dale McFee.

“This is a great start, though one company alone cannot solve this problem,” says EPS Chief Dale McFee. “Criminals will just move to another store without ID scanners down the street. Without proper government support to ensure a uniform application of this initiative, we risk displacing victimization, which also isn’t acceptable.”

The controlled entrance and scanner concept in Alberta is the result of collaboration between the EPS and external partners, subject-matter experts in their respective fields. Alcanna contributed extensive retail industry knowledge, while Launchcode (Patronscan) brings technology and privacy expertise. Austin Securities brought store front integration. The EPS contributed enforcement and legislation adherence to this innovative approach.

The video of the liquor store thefts can be downloaded here.

Edmonton Police Service

MRU #: 20R119

“Dedicated to Protect, Proud to Serve”

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