Police are increasing enforcement against retail theft in Surrey as Christmas shopping gets underway.
The push began with a meeting Oct. 25 between Surrey Mounties, representatives of the Downtown Surrey, Newton, and Cloverdale Business Improvement Associations, the Surrey Board of Trade, and representatives from the City of Surrey as well as major retailers to explore strategies to fight shoplifting.
“With holiday shopping season just around the corner, I thank the Surrey RCMP for their proactive and targeted efforts to curb criminals who are looking to ruin the holidays,” Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said. “This timely operation will help reduce thefts from Surrey businesses during the year’s busiest shopping season and help keep shoppers and staff safe. We are sending a strong message to would-be thieves – shoplift in Surrey and you will be caught and held accountable.”
According to Surrey RCMP crime stats, there were 2,455 cases of shoplifting recorded in Surrey in the first three quarters of this year compared to 2,001 in the same period of 2022, for an increase of 23 per cent.
Surrey RCMP Sgt. Tammy Lobb said police will work with retail loss prevention officers in multiple locations during the busiest shopping days of the year.
“The focus will be on thefts that are committed for profit, and prolific offenders who are committing them,” she explained. “An officer may arrest an individual for shoplifting and throughout the investigation, the officer learns the individual is also wanted on outstanding warrants or they are breaching court imposed conditions or they have committed new offences in addition to shoplifting.”
The Surrey RCMP Mobile Street Enforcement Team (MSET) will also be running Project Mistletoe, focusing on prevention and crime reduction with more uniformed patrols at retail centres and parking lots. The Surrey Board of Trade, meantime, will host a public safety roundtable in coming weeks, CEO Anita Huberman said.
“I don’t think it’s as bad as Vancouver, but it’s not great either,” she said of Surrey’s shoplifting problem. “I mean, we have and we know of stores that are robbed every day, or robbed every week, and it’s a result of escalating homeless issues, economic issues.
“Even us, we’re not a retail business, but our whole aluminum fence was stolen a couple of months ago and the way that it was done is 3 a.m. and I assume the aluminum is being re-sold somehow. But it is a problem that is impacting the sustainability of businesses in the form of an additional ‘crime tax,’ additional costs for security, camera technology.
“Yes, it is bad, and I’m so pleased that the Surrey RCMP are putting out plans, support mechanisms to support our retail sector in Surrey and there has to be a conduit of communication between the business and public safety personnel,” Huberman said.
Locke told the Now-Leader it’s her understanding Surrey’s situation is “not as bad as it is in Vancouver, but that doesn’t mean it’s good enough.”
Meantime, the Surrey Board of Trade has added its voice to the SOS Coalition, which held a press conference in Vancouver on Oct. 30 seeking solutions to the crime and violence “crisis” Vancouver is experiencing.