Police in Vancouver are revealing the results of a recent campaign targeting some of the city's chronic and violent shoplifters.
The three-week operation called Project Barcode ran from February 15 to March 10 and saw police officers working with Vancouver stores to clamp down on retail crime.
Throughout the operation, Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers were staged outside of 28 participating retail stores while staff watched for known offenders and other shoplifters. As the suspected thieves made their way toward the exits, staff notified the waiting officers who then took the suspects into custody, explains the VPD in a news release.
The operation investigated 280 thefts and resulted in 217 arrests, including 47 repeat offenders. Of the thefts, 278 criminal charges were recommended to Crown counsel. Police also recovered $79,679 in stolen merchandise and seized 24 weapons.
“Retail crime is growing in major cities throughout North America, and, in Vancouver, we continue to see an alarming trend of repeat offenders and people using violence to commit their crimes,” says Staff Sergeant Mario Mastropieri of VPD’s Operations Division.
The VPD notes that mid-sized businesses like London Drugs and grocery stores, dollar stores, and clothing retailers were among the most targeted by shoplifters during the three weeks.
While shoplifting incidents remain under-reported, the number of retail thefts in Vancouver increased by more than 30 per cent in 2022 in comparison to the previous year. On average, over 20 violent shoplifting incidents were reported to the VPD each month in 2022.
“We need this work to continue," says Tony Hunt, General Manager for London Drugs Loss Prevention. "We also need the support from government, police, and community organizations so front line retail workers don’t have to face violence and abuse.”
During Project Barcode violent shoplifting incidents - those involving weapons or physical force - decreased by 19 per cent. So far in 2023, the number of violent thefts has gone down by 45 per cent.
Yet, police still encountered several violent shoplifters during the course of the campaign.
In one incident a man with 37 prior criminal convictions dating back to 2015 entered a dollar store near Granville and Dunsmuir streets, pulled out a knife to threaten staff, then exited the store with the suspected stolen items. The same man then entered another dollar store one block away where he did the exact same thing, according to the VPD. Officers arrested the man near Main and Hastings streets that same day. The suspect has been charged with possession of a weapon and uttering threats and has subsequently been released from custody.
Another shoplifting suspect was arrested four times throughout the operation. In one instance, the man walked into a downtown clothing store and threatened to kill staff with a knife before allegedly taking store merchandise and leaving the store. The suspect was arrested near the store, taken to jail, and charged with assault with a weapon, theft over $5,000, and two counts of failure to comply. The man has since been released from custody.
A third violent theft involved a suspect who had threatened store security with a machete after allegedly stealing $1,100 worth of store merchandise from a home hardware store in East Vancouver. The suspect has been charged with robbery and has been released from custody.