Shop Theft Pilot Expands

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 10:53 a.m. October 30, 2019
Updated: 11:52 a.m. October 30, 2019

A pilot program designed to reduce police attendance at shoplifting calls has been expanded to 32 and 33 Divisions.

A woman putting an aerosol can in her purse
Some shoplifting calls will not require police attend the store in person

Launched a year ago in downtown 51 and 52 Divisions, the pilot program was designed to improve service delivery to the city’s busiest retail businesses and to streamline the apprehension process of shoplifters.

Insp. Paul Rinkoff, who has led the pilot program, said the response from retailers so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They are benefitting from reduced downtime attributed to waiting for police to attend and a stronger relationship with their local Division,” he said. 

It allows trained Loss Prevention Officers, after placing a regular call-for-service for an adult shoplifter, to contact their local Division and request an over-the-phone investigation instead of police attendance, from trained Community Investigative Support Unit (CISU) members or designated officers and supervisors.

During the over-the-phone investigation, police will examine all factors and determine if their attendance is necessary to take custody of the shoplifter. In instances that qualify under the pilot, Loss Prevention Officers may release the offenders they have detained and police may continue with a ‘caution’ or proceed with a criminal charge at a later date by way of a ‘long-form summons’.

The activities of the Loss Prevention Officers and police are captured in police records, ensuring an electronic record of all investigations.

Individuals detained by Loss Prevention Officers meet the criteria of participating in the program if they are 18 years of age or older, they don’t have previous criminal convictions, they are not before the courts and they haven’t taken part in the program in the previous 12 months.

Police will attend only if the offender is Under 18, their identity is in doubt, there has been violence or violence is feared, the dollar value of the offence is greater than $1,000, the offence involved multiple victims, the offender appears to be part of an organized ring , there’s a language barrier presenting unsurmountable obstacles to the Loss Prevention Officer, the offender or Loss Prevention Officer requests police attendance, the offender resides outside the Greater Toronto Area, the offender appears to be intoxicated or suffering from a mental disorder and in instances where there are unusual circumstances.

A group of people standing outside a mall storefront
Loss Prevention Officer Shehan Sahayanathan, Constable Sanjay Rambeharry, Inspector Paul Rinkoff, Constable Kyla Amoah and Security Officer Thushan Mathanarajah outisde the Yorkdale Shopping Centre Sephora store

Rinkoff said the Service continues to measure the program’s success, keeping track of how many calls-for-service have been diverted to the program.

It was rolled out in 32 and 33 Divisions on October 1.

A total of 11 retail stores in the District have signed up to participate in the program.

“The stores were selected based on analytics and feedback from officers that are working in both of those divisions,” said Rinkoff. “We examined the numbers and came up with a list of retail stores that place the greatest demand on our Priority Response, and that will benefit most from the pilot. If we can reduce the need to send primary response officers to theft under calls, we can instead have officers where they are needed the most.”

Sephora in Yorkdale Mall, a retail chain with a selection of upmarket makeup, perfumes, beauty & skincare products, is a participant in the program.

“We see this program as very beneficial because we have lots of theft daily,” said Loss Prevention Officer Shehan Sahayanathan. “It allows for less waiting time for police officers to respond.”

Thushan Mathanarajah, a mall security officer, said the program is very useful.

“A lot of times, we get calls from Sephora,” he said. “We get the call and our protocol is to come here and do a report. We assist with issuing trespass notices. The program helps to free up our available officers.”

Const. Kyla Amoah is the 32 Division Shop Theft Program coordinator.

“The pilot has been effective so far,” she pointed out. “There are quite a few stores that meet the criteria. It’s great for the stores in that they don’t have to sit and wait for our officers to attend.”

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