Back on March 7th 2019 I wrote to Premier Pallister indicating that in my view the ongoing thefts from Liquor Stores under the control of the Province were intolerable in both economic and social terms and that to allow citizens to flout the law with impunity sent a negative message to the public. I asked the Premier what steps the government would be taking to address the situation.
I received a series of responses the end result being a call from a member of the Liquor and Lotteries Security Team. We had an extended and frank conversation and the individual outlined for me the steps they were taking to address the situation.
I remember thinking at the time that Liquor and Lotteries was attempting to apply a very expensive high tech solution to what really amounts to an age old problem and somewhat simple problem, that is, people walking into a retail outlet and committing theft.
Yet despite my reticience I was somewhat mollified and decided to take a wait ans see attitude.
It would be wrong to assume the Liquor and Lotteries has done nothing to try and stop these thefts. They are taking steps and these are clearly outlined on their website.
The problem is that the steps they have taken so far are not addressing the problem adequately. The thefts are continuing seemingly unabated.
In a recent news conference Liquor and Lotteries spokesperson Andrea Kowal addressed the issue of liquor thefts and steps Liquor and Lotteries is taking to curb the thefts. The video goes on for some 15 minutes but it is well worth watching it all. Kowal is clearly frustrated by the thefts, and the media coverage of the thefts and comes across as defensive in terms of Liquor and Lotteries continuing inability to deal with the theft issue in an effective manner. The following is a short quote from that interview:
“Nothing seems to be working. We have police officers in our stores and they’re robbing us while the police officers, an armed police officer with a gun and a tazer are standing there. So I’m not quite sure what is supposed to fix this.”
The bottom line in terms of the Liquor and Lotteries position as expressed by Kowal is that the ongoing thefts are part of a bigger problem plaguing all retail outlets in Winnipeg and that it is unrealistic to expect Liquor and Lotteries to stop the theft until the underlying social issue and root causes are addressed. Those comments do not give me a sense that matters are well in hand and that the issue of thefts will be addressed anytime soon.
We all know that there are deep underlying issues that influence crime in Winnipeg and other major urban centres. Addressing the array of underlying issues may be a solution in the long term but that does not fall within the purview of Liquor and Lotteries mandate.
This may well be a situation where the symptoms of the broader problem need to be addressed in the interim while at the same time attempting to come up with long term solutions.
To draw an analogy to Winnipeg streets, we all know many streets need extensive repair or even replacement but in the interim we still need to be able to drive on them, so we fix the potholes.
We all know we have a major crime problem in Winnipeg, a problem that will not be solved in the short term. However, in the interim are we willing to settle for wringing our hands and bemoaning the sad state of affairs facing us, and allow crime to run rampant, or are we prepared to address the issue of crime in the here and now?
Remember the auto theft crisis we had in Winnipeg some 20 years ago? That problem festered and grew and eventually required a radical solution to bring it to heel.
Are we satisfied to let liquor thefts to fester and grow or are we going to demand some action, real concrete action to stop these thefts?