Red Deer County coun. Jean Bota was at the Alberta Retail Crime Prevention Summit in Red Deer Wednesday. Bota learned about shoplifting, grab-and-runs, and how in some cases shoplifting is feeding into organized crime. Photo by Mamta Lulla/Advocate staff

WATCH: Shoplifting, grab-and-run thefts a huge issue in Alberta, including Red Deer

Sometimes shoplifting leads to organized crime

Shoplifting – and the violence that goes along with it – is a serious concern in Alberta.

And in some cases, it leads to organized crime.

The Alberta Retail Crime Prevention Summit was held Wednesday in Red Deer, where various representatives from big companies such as Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, Canadian Tire, Sport Check and Winners gathered.

Many law enforcement representatives also joined the all-day discussions.

Red Deer County Coun. Jean Bota was at the event and said increasing drug addiction, be it fentanyl or meth, is giving rise to shoplifting because people need to find ways to support their addictions.

People shoplift merchandise and sell it online.

In other cases, shoplifting supports organized crime, when these vulnerable people are asked to go out with shopping lists.

“They have an addiction, so they’re told, ‘well instead of money, maybe I need jeans, maybe I need cologne.’”

There are concerns about homelessness and shoplifting in Gasoline Alley, as well as at retailers in Red Deer, Bota said.

“Maybe we can start co-ordinating that with the RCMP… and I know some of the shop owners in this city (Red Deer), and a lot of them have the same issues. It’s all over.”

Ray Wilson, a constable with the Edmonton Police Service and a co-organizer of the third annual summit, said retail theft is a huge issue, not only in Alberta, but across the nation, and it needs to be taken seriously.

“Multiple shoplifters that come in and steal multiple items – this is a billion-dollar industry nationwide and it causes a lot of issues like violence and with employees,” he said, adding a lot of these offenders are carrying weapons, putting workers at risk.

At the event, Bota learned grab-and-run is a huge issue in various parts of Alberta, such as Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie and Edmonton.

Intimidating sales representatives or clerks is another issue, and education is needed so business owners know their rights, Bota said.

The event opened the councillor’s eyes to preventative programs that teach how to detect shoplifters and what to do when you spot one.

Events like these help communicate and share ideas and programs, because without that, nothing will change, Bota said.

Every business owner needs to know what they can do to help combat crime, and how they can achieve it, because shoplifting is an issue that consumers end up paying for.

“Every time someone has lost merchandise or whatever, we all pay for it, it effects us all,” Bota said, adding smaller businesses are especially hard hit.

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