Vancouver police arrest more than 200, recover almost $80K in stolen goods in shoplifting crackdown

The Vancouver Police Department says there's been a more than 30 per cent increase in shoplifting crimes since 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
The Vancouver Police Department says there's been a more than 30 per cent increase in shoplifting crimes since 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

During a three-week operation focused on repeat and violent shoplifters, the Vancouver Police Department says it arrested more than 200 people and recovered almost $80,000 in stolen goods.

Project Barcode, which ran from Feb. 15 to March 10, involved officers waiting outside participating stores, while staff watched for known and new shoplifters. If a shoplifter tried to leave, staff would notify the officer, who would take the shoplifter to custody.

In total, 28 retailers participated in the project, resulting in 217 arrests, 47 of which involved repeat offenders. Police say 24 weapons were also seized.

Staff Sgt. Mario Mastropieri says Vancouver continues to see an alarming trend of repeat offenders and shoplifters using violence.

According to police, 2022 saw a more-than-30 per cent increase in shoplifting crimes compared to 2021.

Submitted by Sarah Bancroft
Submitted by Sarah Bancroft

"Everyone's safety is a priority for us … and everyone deserves to feel safe in Vancouver," he said.

"And that includes the thousands of small business owners and their employees."

VPD says Project Barcode allowed officers to easily apprehend shoplifters and minimize the violence staff could potentially face when attempting to stop people.

On one occasion, Mastropieri says, a man in a dollar store near Granville and Dunsmuir streets, in downtown Vancouver, allegedly pulled a knife on staff and fled with stolen merchandise.

He says the man then went to another nearby dollar store and allegedly committed the same crime.

He was arrested later that day and charged.

Mastropieri says mid-size businesses, grocery stores, dollar stores and clothing shops were the most targeted by shoplifters. One retailer, Mastropieri says, was targeted 53 times during the three weeks.

The department says 278 criminal charges have been recommended to Crown counsel.

Impact on businesses and staff

Tony Hunt, general manager of loss prevention at London Drugs, which participated in the project, says retail workers face alarming numbers of abuse and violence across the country.

"While there are important business elements of this … this is most urgently a people issue," said Hunt.

"Our industry, our employees and our customers need more support to ensure safety."

Walley Wargolet, executive director at the Gastown Business Improvement Society, says the impact of shoplifting on small businesses is significant, especially as insurance does not cover theft.

He says small businesses are already facing high inflation, increased property taxes and increased wage requirements.

"Also having to circumvent the cost of lost merchandise because of shoplifting, I have a real fear these businesses will not be able to stay in business much longer," he said.