While the helping hand from Langford Mayor Stew Young might have made last week’s incident unique, shoplifting is hardly a rare occurrence, according to Western Foods manager Jeff Stewart.
“It’s a major problem,” he said. “I’d say we probably catch somebody almost every day and every day we don’t catch one it makes me think about who we missed.”
Stewart would like to see police take a stronger stance against a crime he says is common throughout the retail industry, noting that theft doesn’t just hurt the retailer.
“It’s hard to keep prices down when theft is a major issue.”
Stewart noted that shoplifters come in all shapes and sizes, from teenagers right up to seniors. “It’s whoever thinks it’s a good idea to grab a thing of cheese and stuff it in their purse,” he said.
While the store’s policy is to prosecute all shoplifters, that doesn’t always mean charges are laid.
West Shore RCMP media relations officer Const. Alex Berube understands the frustration from store owners, but noted there are numerous elements to be considered when police are deciding whether to recommend charges to Crown prosecutors.
“It’s always based on the evaluation of the information that’s provided to us. We always need to determine the substance of the allegations,” Berube said. “We need to determine whether it’s in the public’s interest to forward a report to Crown council (and if) there is a likelihood of conviction.”
Other factors could also be taken into consideration, including the individual circumstances of the suspect. For example, police will “do everything they can” when it comes to pursuing charges against a repeat offender, while a parent trying to feed their kids might be dealt with differently.
“Yes, there have to be consequences to shoplifting, it’s illegal. But we have different venues of prosecuting,” Berube said, noting that restorative justice is often used. “It’s not always about bringing someone to court.”
In addition to electronic security measures at the store entrance, Western Foods also employs undercover security staff to patrol the aisles on occasion, Stewart said.
On April 13, a shoplifter was pursued by employees of the store while Mayor Young was making his way through the roundabout on Goldstream Avenue. The mayor helped the employees apprehend the suspect before police arrived on scene.
The investigation is ongoing, but Berube declined to comment on whether charges were likely.