Allowing Liquor Store Thefts Is Just Dead Wrong

Commentary, Municipal Government, Brian Giesbrecht

The problem of theft from Winnipeg’s liquor stores is steadily growing more serious. It has become well known to thieves that they can steal with impunity from the stores. They know that the staff have been advised not to interfere with a theft in progress under any circumstances. They also know that the police have strongly warned the public not to attempt vigilantism — not to be heroes. And, strangest of all, they know that the police have decided — wrongly — to sit back and watch while these audacious robberies are happening.

So far the message to the public seems to be that these in-your-face thefts are not a real cause for alarm. After all, in the larger picture, the amounts taken are not that significant. What’s the worry? However, I suggest that such thinking is dead wrong: these outrageous thefts are a very big deal.

The public sees staff and police helpless — or unwilling — to intervene in very obvious criminality and a major breakdown of law and order — something out of the Wild West. The potential for deadly violence whenever one of these major breaches of the law occurs is huge. To take a casual attitude to such behaviour is an abdication of responsibility by the police. All options should be considered. But, whatever administrative changes are made, it is clear that it is time for our police to step up and do their jobs. It is very alarming that even when a police officer is physically present in a store when a robbery takes place they simply step back and do nothing.

Here is what a spokesperson for the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Corporation said: “We have police officers in our stores and they are robbing us while an armed officer with a gun and a Taser is standing there, so I’m not sure what is supposed to fix this”.
There is clearly something seriously wrong with policing policy when police officers do nothing while serious crimes are being committed right in front of them. The police chief must change this misguided

It is not a stretch to suggest that if liquor stores are declared to be easy prey for thievery other businesses will surely follow. Daylight robbery will become the norm at Walmarts, marijuana outlets, banks, and even in private homes. Winnipeggers must be assured that this will not be allowed to happen and that they will be protected. Peace, order and good government is the single most important promise of our Constitution and citizens expect that promise to be kept. And pretending that these liquor store robberies are akin to simple shoplifting is nonsense. These brazen in-your-face crimes are closer to invasions. The thieves are daring anyone present to do something about it. Who doubts that many of these thugs would attack if someone tried to stop them? Police must act.

Simply sitting back while this lawlessness is taking place, and later charging these bandits and giving them a promise to appear in court comes nowhere close to reflecting the seriousness of these crimes. At the very least the perpetrators should be detained and face bail hearings.

Punishment for those convicted must reflect the serious nature of these offences. The alternative is to let Winnipeg revert to its old status as the Wild West.

Republished from The Winnipeg Sun, November 12, 2019.