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

Overflowing garbage bin attracts Colwood councillor’s attention

Staff report will contain current locations, cost, and potential sites for new garbage bins

Rickter Scale: A novel approach to balancing the books

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column

Bates Motel recreated in Saanich for a haunting good time

Local artists, actors transform house into a free, ‘fun spooky’ Halloween attraction

Sidney handles plastic bags with wait-and-see approach

Officials say they will wait for courts and provincial action concerning single-use plastic bags

West Shore RCMP bust seizes $50,000 worth of drugs

More than 300 grams of cocaine and crack-cocaine seized in Victoria

WATCH: Greater Victoria’s top stories of the day

A round-up of the day’s top stories

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

Alberta truck convoy plans counter-protest at climate rally with Greta Thunberg

United We Roll organizer says similar protest planned for Swedish teen’s event in Edmonton

COLUMN: Halloween shouldn’t be a purity test

The holiday is a time of pretending and fun

Scheer, Trudeau, Singh haggle over potential minority government outcome

If you believe the polls, it appears the Liberals and Conservatives are neck-and-neck

British family deported after ‘accidental’ U.S. border crossing

U.S. officials deny it was mistake, release video of vehicle crossing into Washington from Langley

Kamloops man hangs on to back of stolen truck as suspect speeds away, crashes

The pickup truck was seen leaving the roadway before bursting into flames

‘Sky didn’t fall:’ Police, lawyers still adjusting after pot legalization

Statistics Canada says 541 people were charged under the federal Cannabis Act between Oct. 17, 2018 and the end of the year

Fewer people prescribed opioids in B.C., but other provinces lack data: doctors

Patients who began taking opioids were prescribed smaller doses for shorter duration

Most Read