Calgary, AB,

Retail crime costing Albertans millions

Awareness campaign launches to warn Calgarians about cost of buying stolen goods

The Calgary Police Service, Edmonton Police Service, Lethbridge Police Service and the Airdrie Royal Canadian Mounted Police are teaming up to warn Albertans who are looking to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping deals, about the dangers of organized retail crime.

Organized retail crime is the organized, pre-meditated 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.

In 2018, Calgary and surrounding area retailers have reported a collective loss of approximately $10 million. The most common types of business to report losses are:

  • Designer fashion and high-end fragrance retailers
  • Cosmetics
  • Athletic-wear
  • Book stores
  • Electronics
  • Groceries
  • Liquor

By the numbers:

Here are the number of reported shoplifting cases to Calgary Police from 2016-2018.

2016 2017 2018
5,188 5,232 3,653*

*YTD From Q1 - Q3 of 2018

Just two weeks ago, a group of teens were charged in connection with a series of violent robberies within the city. The teens allegedly stole jewelry, cell phones, clothes/footwear and video game consoles.*Year to Date (From Jan. 2018 to Sept. 2018.)

It is a growing problem in Calgary and Canada, costing Canadian retailers an estimated $4.6 billion each year.

How does it work:

Besides obvious “grab and runs,” offenders can conceal goods in specially lined bags that won’t set off store detectors. They use demagnetizing devices to defeat anti-theft devices, or even cut or rip off item tags discreetly. Or, they try to return a fake product to a store in an attempt to get a cash refund for something they never purchased in the first place.

Stolen goods are then advertised at lower prices, which seem like a deal to buyers. Buyers scoop up the deals, unaware that they are purchasing a stolen item, and funding additional criminal activity. In some cases, police can seize the stolen item(s) from the innocent consumer.

The effects:

Stolen goods mean higher prices for consumers as retailers must cover both the loss of the stolen item(s) and the cost of added security to prevent further theft.

The Calgary Police Service and neighbouring law enforcement agencies are also warning consumers 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.

“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 Const. Kevin Anderson, 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.”

What can consumers do:

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.
  • 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.
  • Pay attention to the photos of the goods for sale – some offenders are so bold as to post a picture of an item they intend to steal while it’s still on the store shelf.
  • Report it. If a crime is in progress, or if there is an immediate threat to public safety, call 911.

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