Merchants buying cigarettes at Costco being targeted, police suspect

Police say a growing black market for cigarettes could be fuelling three recent cigarette thefts linked to merchant purchases at Costco.

Police in Greater Victoria say a growing black market for cigarettes could be fuelling three recent cigarette thefts linked to merchant purchases at Costco.

Boxes of cigarettes worth $10,000 have been reported stolen in three separate incidents in Saanich since June.

Most recently, on Aug. 17, $6,000 in cigarettes was taken from a locked storage area at the AM 2 PM convenience store at the corner of Burnside and Harriet roads.

“This is the first occasion where it resulted in a break in and theft. The others were thefts from vehicles,” said Staff Sgt. Gary Schenk, with the Regional Crime Unit.

He said police are concerned about the common denominators in all three incidents: the cigarettes were all purchased at Costco and stolen within an hour. “The suspects appear to be watching people make purchases (of cigarettes at Costco), then follow them to see if the opportunity presents to make a theft,” Schenk said.

In the Aug. 17 incident, an AM 2 PM employee had just returned to the store with the cigarettes. Within half an hour they were gone and the metal lock had been cut. In the other two thefts, the cigarettes were stolen from the vehicles while the purchaser left the vehicle unattended.

Schenk says a fourth incident, from June 28, is being investigated, too, after someone made a large purchase of cigarettes from Costco, then called police because he believed he was being followed.

“The only reason we draw that link (to Costco) is the thefts are occurring in a way that nobody should’ve known there was that volume of cigarettes in that vehicle,” he said.

These thefts appear to be identical to a rash of thefts linked to bulk purchases at the Costco in Nanaimo, occurring since February 2011. Some $40,000 worth of cigarettes have been stolen.

Given the amount of cigarettes being taken, along with “past experience and street-level intelligence,” Schenk says they believe the smokes are being sold on the black market.

“We’re talking about cigarette volumes too great for any individual use or consumption. We definitely think they’re being resold,” he said.

Saanich police are looking to speak with anyone with information about Friday’s theft from the convenience store.

Schenk said police have been in contact with management at Costco.

“We’re encouraging people to take precautions and not leave substantial purchases like that unattended, and to get them secured in their homes and businesses as quickly as possible,” he said.

Police are asking anyone with information on any of these incidents to call 250-475-4321 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

Just Posted

UPDATE: Serious crash sends two to hospital, closes Cook Street in both directions

Police have taped off intersection as investigation continues

The ride of a lifetime

RCMP officer Rusty Olsen shares experience with Musical Ride

V2V ferry service to add daily trips from Vancouver to Victoria for fall

New routes will move home base to the mainland, allow guests more time in Victoria

Join the resistance for an outdoor movie screening in Colwood

Movies on the Hill returns to West Shore Parks and Recreation

Storm the fort in epic battle

Fort Rodd Hill’s annual water gun battle returns Aug. 18

A look at B.C. wildfire smoke from space

NASA provides a timelapse of smoke covering B.C. from space

Child dies in boating incident in Okanagan

A North Vancouver family was boating on Kalamalka Lake in Vernon when the incident occured

B.C. Wildfires 2018: Province calls for federal aid

More fires have burned in B.C. already this year than did in all of 2017

Kayak in Indian Arm waters off B.C.’s Deep Cove and feast on famous doughnuts

About a half hour drive from Vancouver, Deep Cove is a great kayaking spot for locals and tourists

Smokey skies across Vancouver Island expected to last until Wednesday

The province of B.C. has issued a special bulletin for all of Vancouver Island

Child, 4, attacked by cougar near Fernie

The BC Conservation Officer Service said it happened while the family was fishing

Trans Mountain pipeline protesters practise resisting police at Camp Cloud

Last week, a Supreme Court judge granted the City of Burnaby an injunction ordering protesters to remove everything from the site

Gun used in Fredericton killings is legal, man had licence

Police Chief Leanne Fitch said the long gun is commonly available for purchase, and is not a prohibited or restricted weapon

Ontario will sell pot online when legalization comes in the fall

There are further plans to have pot in private retail stores in early 2019

Most Read