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Ottawa police data show dramatic rise in shoplifting in first three months of 2024


Over the past few years, owner of Sports4, Jim Macfarlane, has had to deal with theft.

So much so, that he has had to adjust his business and product offerings. An entire section of his store used to be filled with racks of clothes, but not anymore.

"It was in the thousands every year," said Macfarlane. "It really affected us where we don't carry certain brands and certain styles anymore because they're targeted more by people. So we just have had to veer away from that because you end up losing more money than you gain."

Macfarlane thinks more needs to be done to discourage shoplifting.

"It's the age old problem where the penalties aren't large enough and, people are like, 'Well, if I get caught, I'm back on the street the next day,'" he said.

Small businesses like Sports4 might only lose a few thousand dollars each year due to shoplifting, but it can be much more for big box stores.

"The most concerning is organized theft," says Chris Lewis, CTV News Public Safety Analyst. "Organized crime rings are actually stealing tons and tons, hundreds of thousands of dollars of stuff, and retailing it on the black market. And that's where there's big money in that. And that's harder to stop because they're organized and they've got the wherewithal to unload the stuff and not necessarily get caught."

Ottawa police say there were 6,813 online police reports in the first three months of 2024 and, of those reports, 44 per cent were for shoplifting. That figure is up 37 per cent compared to the first three months of 2023.

"We see the larger grocery chains as well as the LCBO as being a big driver of those numbers going up. And they are filling out more online reports for the shoplifting as well," Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs told reporters.

In a statement, the LCBO says, "We employ many measures to mitigate or prevent theft including CCTV, security guards and a plain clothes task force, and are committed to piloting new initiatives which help to mitigate theft in our stores and create a safer environment."

It's not just plain theft that's the problem, many shoplifting incidents can also be a danger to those in the store.

According to the Retail Council of Canada, "Incidents of retail theft that involve some form of violence have increased 300 per cent over the past four years."

As for Macfarlane, he says running a small business is difficult enough, even without the shoplifting.

"When you're a small business like me, you know, you can't really afford to have a certain chunk of stuff being stolen, and you don't have other things that make up for that lost revenue," said Macfarlane. Top Stories

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