Majority of Manitobans fear witnessing shoplifting, violence in stores: poll


Elaine Lovatt will walk into any store, almost.

“No, if there’s going to be a gang of these kids breaking in and stealing, that terrifies me,” he said, laughing. “I’m a chicken.”

The pensioner has never witnessed a shoplifting. She believes that people steal out of desperation and that perhaps if security were more obvious (like patrolling the hallways, etc.) crime could be stopped.

Lovatt is like most Manitobans. The majority of the population is concerned about shoplifting and believes that efforts should be intensified to prevent it, according to a survey commissioned by the Free Press has found.

“I guess the level of concern people have is not entirely surprising, but it really stood out,” said Curtis Brown, a partner at Probe Research, which surveyed 1,000 Manitobans from late May to early June.

Six in 10 respondents said they are worried about witnessing a shoplifting incident or seeing a violent encounter between a shoplifter and retail store staff, the results show.



Forty-five percent reported that they avoid shopping at places they perceive as theft hotspots.

Kathryn Magarrell has given up on a couple of dollar stores in Fort Rouge. She and her 16-year-old daughter witnessed shoplifting several times over the past year, Magarrell said.

“I just don’t think I want my daughter to witness it (again),” said Magarrell, who was shopping for groceries at a nearby supermarket.

There was no violence or physical contact during the robberies. Staff members tried to act as a barricade and failed.

“I felt bad for the employees,” Magarrell recalled. “They probably didn’t sign up for that when they started working.”



At Food Fare, co-owner Munther Zeid said he has received more support from customers following media headlines about clashes between staff and thieves. The supermarket chain has faced shoplifters and has been accused of being harsh on them, including an April 28 incident in which a woman was allegedly punched at the establishment located at Portage Avenue and Burnell Street.

“It’s almost like your home,” Zeid said of owning a store. “You have the choice to let the thief go or confront him and protect your things.

“You can let this happen once, twice, three times, but eventually you’ll say, ‘I’m not going to let this happen in my house again.’”

He believes shoplifting will persist until it is addressed. Most people return stolen items when questioned, he said. Food Fare staff voluntarily group up to intimidate, but not touch, shoplifters once they hear a code word in the Portage Avenue store’s system, Zeid continued.

“Customers really have nothing to fear when it comes to shoplifting,” he said, adding that he can’t think of any case where a passerby was injured.

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Forty-five percent of respondents expressed concern about being physically attacked by a thief.

“For some people, fear of crime correlates with vulnerability, and for others, it doesn’t.”–Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, professor of criminal justice

“For some people, fear of crime correlates with vulnerability, while for others it doesn’t,” said Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land, a criminal justice professor at the University of Winnipeg.

The chances of being hurt by a thief are slim until someone intervenes, Dobchuk-Land explained. Often, the people most visibly targeted for theft (rightly or wrongly) are also the most vulnerable to violence and crime, she said.

The Probe survey found that racialized respondents were more likely to express concern about being attacked by shoplifters and to avoid stores known to be plagued by shoplifting.

Lori Wilkinson, a professor of sociology and criminology at the University of Manitoba who specializes in migration, describes it as “shopping while black.”

Racialized and indigenous peoples are likely to be monitored more closely by security, he said. They are also commonly found working retail jobs, which exposes them to theft and possible violence, he said.

Racialized people are less likely to find jobs that offer the same salaries and benefits after graduating from university as their non-racialized and non-Indigenous counterparts, Statistics Canada reported last year.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable, but mostly angry.”–Ainsley Wastesicoot

Ainsley Wastesicoot said she has noticed security guards following her in some spaces, such as dollar stores.

“It makes me feel uncomfortable, but mostly angry,” said Wastesicoot, who is indigenous.

Her boyfriend used to be a security guard. He details how guards keep an eye on customers; Wastesicoot said the information has increased his awareness.

Still, he believes giving security guards more power to stop thieves would decrease the level of crime. Her boyfriend eventually quit his job because he was frustrated that he couldn’t do much to stop it, he said.

In Probe’s survey, 79 percent of respondents agreed that private security guards at retail stores should have more power. Among Progressive Conservative voters, that number rose to 90 percent.



Racialized and indigenous groups were slightly below average, at 75 and 71 percent, respectively.

Opponents, like Dobchuk-Land, say increasing the power of private security guards would lead to an escalation of incidents and lead to injuries to people at points of sale.

Police have said guards have been stabbed, sprayed with bear repellent and physically attackedeven in private companies, during the last seven months.

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Private security guards are not police officers, said Marie Buchan, secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 832, which represents such workers.

The guards are meant to “observe, inform and deter.” If they touch a customer, they can be disciplined, Buchan said.

The union is pushing to update the 40-hour training program to include relevant topics such as mental health first aid and cultural sensitivity.

Hazard Pay

Wastesicoot, like 73 percent of respondents, believes that special training for frontline staff “wouldn’t hurt.”

Sixty-five percent of respondents agreed that retailers should pay their employees higher wages, as “hazard pay.”

Support rose to 81 percent and 78 percent when looking at Indigenous groups and other racialized groups, respectively.

“They deserve more money if they’re going through this,” said Bill Sumerlus, a Superstore buyer. “But I don’t know if that would deter theft.”

A part-time worker at a West End dollar store, who wanted to be identified as Joven, balked at the idea of ​​hazard pay.

“I would prefer not to receive hazard pay (if) in return they demand that we do so… to avoid those thieves,” Joven said. “I don’t think any money is worth your safety or your life.”

“I don’t think any money is worth your safety or your life.”–Dollar store employee

His manager has been grabbed by the collar; Shoplifters have brandished shovels and knives as they leave with stolen goods, she said.

He hasn’t been hurt, but he doesn’t stop the thieves either. Food is the most frequently stolen property, she said.

He sympathizes with shoplifters – “it’s kind of forgivable, in a way… if they’re hungry” – but questions why they steal if they receive financial support from the government.

The rising cost to businesses, whether from increased payroll or increased security, would likely be passed on to consumers, recalled Chuck Davidson, president of the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce.

“I think there are a lot of areas… we need to look at it and really start tracking to make sure we’re getting some momentum,” Davidson said, noting that theft is prevalent across Manitoba.

“I think there are a lot of areas…we need to look at it and really start tracking to make sure we’re getting some momentum.”–Chuck Davidson

The last thing the private sector wants is for consumers to be afraid to go to brick-and-mortar stores when they can shop online, Davidson said, adding that long-term solutions are needed to curb shoplifting and the violence that comes with it.

  ब्रेस्ट में सूजन के साथ-साथ रहता है दर्द तो भूल से भी न करें इग्नोर, खुद से ऐसे करें चेक

Focusing on security guards and shifting responsibility to workers, who are often paid low wages, misses the “bigger picture,” Dobchuk-Land said. It’s unfair to them, she added.

He highlighted a report from the Canadian Food Banks published this week; He said one in four Canadians lives below the poverty line. Across Canada, food bank use increased 78.5 per cent from March 2019 to March 2023.

People steal because they need food and money, and there is a market for stolen goods “because other people can’t afford the prices of groceries,” Dobchuk-Land said.

Forty-five percent of respondents agreed that retail theft is caused both by people not being able to pay for items and by stealing for resale.



26 percent blamed the affordability crisis, while 24 percent said it was simply due to reselling products for cash.

“We live in an economy … and a social system where people are not taken care of,” Dobchuk-Land said.

Shoplifting happens everywhere, Zeid said. Winnipeg is a “hub” in a professional theft industrythe Retail Council of Canada told the Free Press last month.

Reports of shoplifting increased 45.4 per cent between 2022 and 2023, the Winnipeg Police Service’s most recent annual report shows. The figure (6,040 incidents of theft in stores of $5,000 or less) is almost double that of 2021.

Police are cracking down on retail crime, including increasing patrols in targeted areas. Meanwhile, provincial lawmakers have pushed for amendments to the Police Services Act.

The Probe survey results are 95 per cent certain to be within 3.1 percentage points if the entire Manitoba population were surveyed.

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Gabrielle Piche

Gabrielle Piche
Reporter

Gabrielle Piché reports on the business of the Free Press. She did an internship at Free Press and worked for its sister store, Canstar Community Newsbefore entering the business in 2021. Read more about Gabriela.

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