With the NLC on track to lose $500K this year to theft, CEO says they'll step up prevention

·2 min read
Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation president and CEO Bruce Keating, seen in a file photo, says stores are seeing more instances of employees being threatened. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation president and CEO Bruce Keating, seen in a file photo, says stores are seeing more instances of employees being threatened. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Eddy Kennedy/CBC
Eddy Kennedy/CBC

The Newfoundland and Labrador Liquor Corporation says it's on track to lose $500,000 in retail sales due to a significant rise in theft — accompanied by threats to its employees.

NLC president and CEO Bruce Keating told CBC News on Tuesday the thefts are more organized, and involve higher volumes of product, than in typical years.

"We're talking about people that are operating in an organized fashion in teams of between two and five people at times," he said. "We're seeing a much greater incident of threats to our employees."

Keating said employees have been threatened with weapons and security personnel have been attacked — sometimes with the larger bottles of alcohol.

He said stores are seeing up to 60 bottles of product stolen at a time, and it often appears that the thieves have scoped out the store beforehand.

"In many cases, they're going to specific locations in the store and seem to be quite specific in terms of the type of product that they want to be getting," Keating said.

In a press release, the NLC said the rate of theft is almost 20 times higher than before the pandemic. Keating said some thieves are using face masks to disguise themselves, and many are using reusable bags to carry stolen product.

He said the thieves sometimes have taxis waiting for them, or use a stolen vehicle.

NLC adding security

Keating said staff are often unable to stop thefts while they're in progress.

"If they're confronted by or spoken to by staff, then we get into the situations where we have the kind of serious threat that we're encountering when that happens," he said.

Keating said the NLC will now use security personnel with the ability to apprehend people caught stealing and hold them until they can be turned over to police. He said the Liquor Control Act has more severe penalties for those caught stealing.

"If we have an incident of theft, as soon as those people step outside of the doors with the product, that product automatically becomes contraband product because it has not been paid for," said Keating.

"That gives us another way to deal with the situation that we're dealing with in terms of the charges that might be laid and in terms of the consequences that would be there for those people who were trying to steal the product," he said.

Keating said the thefts are different from the minor shoplifting seen before the pandemic, pointing to what he called a "criminal element" who are stealing from NLC stores because of a lack of consequences.

Keating said the NLC doesn't want customers who witness a theft to intervene.

"We don't want anybody putting themselves in personal danger," he said. "We will deal with it from a security perspective in terms of who we deploy, and also then through our regulatory services and how we use them in our stores as well."

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