RCMP talk addresses retail theft issues

Balance between privacy rights and store rights explained for West Shore businesses

RCMP Legal Services lawyer Kyle Friesen lays out rules for police and businesses on information they can share without breaking privacy laws.

RCMP Legal Services lawyer Kyle Friesen lays out rules for police and businesses on information they can share without breaking privacy laws.

When a business is faced with a shoplifter it can be tricky for the owners to know who they can tell and what information they can share without breaking any privacy laws.

For this reason the West Shore RCMP organized a series of workshops last week with RCMP Legal Services lawyer Kyle Friesen. RCMP members and business owners and managers took part in the workshops, which focused on explaining the rights of businesses when it comes to dealing with retail theft.

“The question is how can the two talk to each other legitimately and legally under the various privacy laws that apply?” Friesen said. “It’s good for businesses to realize they can legally and legitimately talk with police if there’s a retail theft or shoplifting situation going on.”

One point addressed was the ability of businesses to ban people from their stores. Friesen explained businesses are private property and therefore the owners have the right to ban anyone from their store they wish to, so long as the ban does not break B.C.’s Human Rights Code.

“Stores are private property, with an invitation to come in and behave properly, spend money and be nice,” Friesen said. “It’s a beautiful thing. But the moment you violate that you can be banned, forever.”

Friesen said some business owners are concerned over sharing information about shoplifters with other business owners, for fear of breaching privacy rights. Friesen said the fears are unfounded and business owners can share that information, including photographs, with other store owners and not be breaking privacy rights.

Another common misconception is that police must obtain a search warrant for businesses to be able to supply them with video surveillance footage without breaking a customers privacy rights. Friesen said this is false and businesses can turn over surveillance video to RCMP upon request.

Friesen spoke of a case in Surrey where a person was caught on camera stealing clothing from a store. The store posted an image from the video in the store. The person came back, saw the photo and is now suing the store for breach of privacy. Friesen explained the case doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

“She stole a couple thousand dollars of dresses and now she’s suing the store for putting her picture up?” Friesen said. “That’s absolutely absurd that they can have the guts to come forward like that.”

West Shore RCMP Const. Amy Brewer said with the level of retail theft in this area educating both the police and businesses owners on these types of issues is helpful.

“Retail theft is a huge problem on the West Shore,” Brewer said. “I’ve listened to his presentation twice now and I definately pick up things from it. … I think it was beneficial.”