Calgary, AB,

Organized retail crime is a growing concern

Awareness campaign launches to warn about cost of buying stolen goods

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016, police executed search warrants as part of a stolen property investigation. It is possible that what they found is a window into an organized retail crime operation.

The Calgary Police Service and four major retailers are teaming up to warn Calgarians that buying stolen goods comes with a cost.

Organized retail crime is the theft of consumer goods for the purpose of illegally selling the merchandise for cash. The goods are usually taken through planned, systematic shoplifting and then are sold to the public through classified ads, online sales, flea markets or on the black market.

It is a growing problem in Calgary and Canada as a whole, costing Canadian retailers an estimated $4.6 billion each year. One result is higher prices for consumers as retailers have to cover both the loss and the cost of added security to prevent further theft.

The Calgary Police Service and retailers are also warning that there is a connection between minor crimes and more serious threats to public safety. People attempting to steal from stores can become violent and money raised through organized retail crime is often used to fund other, more serious criminal activities like purchasing drugs or weapons.

“Organized retail crime impacts the safety and security of our employees and the consumers,” says Tony Hunt, General Manager of Loss Prevention at London Drugs. “The individuals committing these thefts are often desperate and prone to violent behavior.  Many incidents of retail theft involve some type of violence.”

“While it may seem harmless, purchasing stolen goods feeds criminal organizations and gives them easy money that helps them branch into other illegal activities,” says Cst. Andrew Critchley, with the Calgary Police Service Organized Retail Crime Team. “We know that many of the goods stolen in our city are initially traded for drugs which means when those same goods are sold down the road, the money is going directly to the drug trade and to people who have little regard for the safety of our communities.”

Police are teaming up with with Loblaws, London Drugs, TJX Canada and Mark’s, as well as the non-profit organizations Crime Stoppers and RetailCOP, this week to launch an advertising campaign aimed at highlighting the cost of organized retail crime. It will run until the end of December.

A sample of the advertisements can be found on The City of Calgary Newsroom and more information on organized retail crime can be found on the Calgary Police Service website.

Calgarians can help prevent organized retail crime by recognizing and refusing to buy stolen goods, and reporting any shoplifting or stolen goods they find for sale.

Citizens can avoid purchasing stolen goods by:

  • Purchasing new goods from licensed, reputable businesses only.
  • Comparing the price of goods to their typical market value. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Asking sellers how they obtained the property and why they are selling it so cheap. If the answers do not add up, it should be a cause for concern.
  • Checking to see what else a seller has for sale when you come across new goods on online classifieds sites. If they are primarily selling new goods and are not a business, it should be considered a red flag.

Suspicious activity can be reported to the Calgary Police Service non-emergency line at 403-266-1234, or Crime Stoppers anonymously using any of the following methods:

TALK: 1-800-222-8477
TEXT: tttTIPS to 274637