Organized retail crime taking off in Canada

From a bland Toronto office filled with large television monitors, Sean Sportun keeps an eye on 560 Mac’s stores in Canada.

The live video streams randomly from the locations. Most of it shows honest customers at counters, plunking down merchandise, paying and leaving.

Then Sportun, manager of security and loss prevention for the convenience store chain for central Canada, loads a recorded clip. It shows a slim woman in a head scarf, sweater and floor-length skirt, sneaking into the back room of a Mac’s in Parry Sound.

The store’s walk-in safe is open and the woman heads straight for it. She stuffs merchandise into laundry-sized bags concealed beneath her skirt. The bags are latched onto a belt around her waist.
There is a name for her garment: It’s called a booster skirt.

After stuffing the bags to capacity, she hobbles out of the backroom. She is no longer slim.

Her skirt has ballooned out and she knocks merchandise onto the floor in her wake.

Stepping out of the back room, she is engulfed by accomplices who shield her from view of the lone clerk as they exit.

At the counter, the clerk is distracted by two more gang members asking about products hanging on the wall behind her. They make a small purchase and leave.

The clerk, sensing that something has gone wrong, darts into the back room to urgently replay the surveillance tape. She calls police.

Total take: $30,000 of tobacco products in five minutes.

That next day the gang was at work in the GTA. They were arrested at a Winners in Thornhill after police were alerted by Sportun.

“They work off the highways. They’re very transient. They will jump from place to place, from province to province, wherever they feel they can get the biggest bang for their buck,” says Sportun.

“For the most part, these folks are really good at what they do. They train for it.”

The Mac’s incident was an example of sophisticated, organized retail crime — the kind that is costing Canadian retailers an estimated $4.67 billion a year.

According to a social media campaign last year, consumers paid 20 per cent more for goods as a result of retail theft.

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