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Working group established to try and curb alcohol theft in Alberta

From the Government of Alberta:

The government has established a working group to protect Albertans by combating the growing public safety threat posed by liquor store robberies and thefts.

Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, has appointed Brad Rutherford, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont, to chair the working group, which will examine the recent spike in crimes targeting liquor stores. 

Police in Edmonton alone responded to more than 9,500 liquor store thefts in 2019 – an average of 26 a day – triple the 3,273 in 2018.

In addition to costing retailers millions of dollars in financial losses and placing a significant strain on police resources, the current trend poses a continued risk of violence toward workers and bystanders.

“Criminals and gangs are preying on hard-working, law-abiding Albertans and business owners. Our government will work with our partners in law enforcement and in the industry to deter liquor store thefts through better prevention and ensuring appropriate consequences for the perpetrators.” Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General.

“This is an important crime and safety issue that requires thoughtful action. Our partners bring a considerable amount of knowledge and expertise to the discussion and I’m looking forward to hearing their ideas. Together, we can make a difference.” Brad Rutherford, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont; chair, Liquor Store Theft Working Group.

“We are pleased to see the government taking action on the issue of liquor store crime after hearing the concerns brought forth by industry. This problem affects big and small business owners in urban and rural communities and poses a significant threat to the safety of liquor store employees. On behalf of liquor store owners across Alberta, we look forward to finding meaningful solutions.” Ivonne Martinez, president, Alberta Liquor Store Association; member, Liquor Store Theft Working Group.

There is evidence that criminal gangs are fuelling a dramatic increase in liquor store thefts in cities like Edmonton and Calgary, using stolen merchandise as a form of street currency to pay for illegal goods and activities. Many thefts and robberies appear to be planned and co-ordinated events carried out by groups that enter a store and steal a large quantity of liquor in only a few minutes. There have also been several cases of violence toward liquor store employees.

Rutherford, who served as a member of the Edmonton Police Service for 10 years, will chair the working group, which has representatives from law enforcement, liquor retailers, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis and the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service.

The group will weigh a broad range of actions to deter liquor store thefts, including security features for stores, enforcement strategies, legal measures and deterrence measures, as well as steps taken in other jurisdictions.

Quick facts

Working group members:

Brad Rutherford, chair, MLA for Leduc-Beaumont

James Stiles, executive advisor to senior ADM, Justice and Solicitor General

Ivonne Martinez, president, Alberta Liquor Store Association

Sarah Langley, executive director, Alberta Crown Prosecution Service

Acting Supt. Leah Barber, Calgary Police Service

Supt. Terry Rocchio, Edmonton Police Service

Supt. Peter Tewfik, RCMP, “K” Division

Rob Pape, director, Compliance, Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis


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