Businesses face an uptick in theft and fraud crimes

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Police reports show a 26 per cent increase in property crimes, specifically shoplifting, prompting officers to help businesses brainstorm strategies to reduce theft.

The detachment commanders’ report for January and February showed 38 thefts where 26 were related to shoplifting.

About 13 different businesses were involved, said Staff Sergeant D. McLean at the Police Services Board meeting on Friday.

He foresees the number increasing for their next reporting period and has since then looked at ways to support businesses.

An officer was recently assigned fulltime as a community liaison officer in response to shoplifting crimes. In addition to giving community school presentations, attending events and organizing events, the community liaison officer will also be in charge of the shoplifting project.

The job entails reviewing analytics and then meeting with business owners to see what is being stolen and brainstorm strategies to reduce store thefts. “So an example could be making certain products less available for the public, sometimes it’s locking things up, it’s closing certain doors to the store, things like that,” said an officer at the Board meeting.

Sioux Lookout has reportedly seen a decrease in shoplifting since the new program, he said, especially regarding alcohol theft from the grocery store. “They sectioned off part of the store where you can get entrance from the side. And now it’s harder for people to come in and take products out of the store.”

A similar issue was faced in 2019, said Sergeant McLean, but once businesses were in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, shoplifting charges decreased.

“So now we’re kind of getting back to more normalcy, and this is kind of what we’re seeing again,” he said.

“​​It was pretty identifiable that most of our property crime and violent crime, I think it was about 45 per cent actually take place in a specific location within the town of Fort Frances. So I really feel that the cameras will be a great investigative tool, and not only solve crime, but it’ll be solved much more quickly,” Sergeant McLean said.

There has also been an uptick in fraud cases, a total of six compared to four at the last reporting period.

Two cases of fraud involved mail or identity fraud.

One incident took place at a local business involving a large-scale purchase of gift cards, in which the persons of interest were also found to be in possession of a credit card embosser.

“So this isn’t what I could classify as a low level fraud. This is very high end,” said Sergeant McLean.

He added that the police services hopes to work on further education and prevention related to frauds, for both businesses and employees. Presentations have been given to seniors about cyberbullying and phone calls but police services now see a need to dedicate efforts to fraud prevention.

“I can’t get too much into the specifics, but the suspects actually have a lot of internal knowledge of the business programs and the specific business, so that should be a red flag right away,” Sergeant McLean said.

Further presentations will continue to roll out across the district to keep up with changing fraud and theft tactics, he said.