West Shore RCMP say officers made more than two dozen arrests for shoplifting late last year amid a spike in reports of people stealing from stores in the area.
A total of 27 people were arrested for shoplifting by West Shore RCMP’s Crime Reduction Unit over a six-week period from November to the end of December 2023, according to Mounties in a news release Tuesday.
They say this came as reports of shoplifting jumped 29 per cent last year compared to the year before. Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2023, officers investigated 514 reports of shoplifting under $5,000, which was about 114 more than in 2022.
RCMP say that amid the increase, the Crime Reduction Unit focused its efforts in the last quarter of 2023 to address shoplifting on the West Shore, where officers worked with loss prevention officers to identify shoplifters.
“Once the shoplifting suspect exited the store without paying for the goods, they were arrested by police,” said RCMP in the release.
‘Grabbed the necklace and ran’
In December, CHEK News spoke with Cory Kowalchuk, owner of Westshore Jewelry, after a thief allegedly stole $20,000 in merchandise from his store in broad daylight.
Kowalchuk said the incident, which happened on Dec. 10, 2023, was the first major theft he had experienced in his nine years of operating the store.
He said a man “asked the young lady working to see a few necklaces, and when she turned to help the other customer next to her, he grabbed the necklaces and ran out the door.”
West Shore RCMP released images of the suspect, a 23-year-old man, on Dec. 12, then on Dec. 18, he turned himself in to police. He was arrested for theft over $5,000 and was scheduled to appear in court in the new year.
Restorative justice, court dates, store bans
Nine of the 27 people arrested met the criteria for the restorative justice program and were deferred away from the criminal justice system, according to RCMP. Of the remaining 18 people, 13 are set to appear in court for theft-related charges, while five were banned from the store they stole from.
According to the B.C. government, restorative justice “involves bringing together the victim, offender and some members of the community to discuss the effects of the crime. Everyone involved must agree to the meeting, at which they talk about the impact of the crime and how to address the harm that was done.”
More information about the program is here.
RCMP say thousands of dollars worth of stolen goods were also returned to stores.
They add that one of the alleged offenders, a suspect in multiple thefts from the same retailer, was actually from B.C.’s mainland.
“The offender was suspected of stealing thousands of dollars worth of high-valued tools and electronics. Crime Reduction Officers were able to identify the suspect who resided in Chilliwack and alerted the Chilliwack RCMP, who arrested the suspect, putting an end to the crime spree,” said RCMP.
Now, an RCMP corporal is applauding teamwork and says it was a “successful outcome” for both police and retailers on the West Shore.
“Partnering with Loss Prevention Officers was key in being able to identify shoplifting taking place within the store; we thank all stores that collaborated with police,” added Crime Reduction Unit Cpl. Danny Grieve in the release.