Local police are working to help create a safer downtown core area in Dryden.

The Dryden Police Service invited local business owners to an information session last week, related to theft activity in the area and to provide tips and information on how to combat shoplifting.

“Some people have made a business in stealing in our community,” said DPS Inspector Ann Tkachyk, who was hosting the information session alongside DPS Constable Denise Szachury.

Much of the evening’s conversation surrounded when to call police, when to call 911, common misconceptions, safety tips, and how the criminal system handles theft charges and trespassing fines.

Perhaps most importantly, Tkachyk and Szachury both stressed that business owners should not feel like they are wasting the police’s time with any theft or shoplifting calls. If there is a serious safety or property damage risk, they are asked to call 911. If the call is regarding a smaller property risk or theft, they are asked to call the detachment at 807-223-3281.

Police say that thieves do not have to leave the business for theft charges to be laid. From a Criminal Code standpoint, theft is considered when an individual makes an object moveable with the intent to steal. Police say that it’s a common misconception in the area – after meeting with a variety of local business owners before the session.

Business owners are also able to request shoppers to open their jackets or backpacks to look for stolen items, but owners do have the right to search an individual. However, that request can be denied by the shopper.

Police urge that if a shopper refuses a search, it should be reported to the DPS. Owners and staff do have the right to perform a Citizen’s Arrest, however, it is not advised by police due to safety concerns. Business owners are asked to leave these matters in the hands of the police.

The DPS encouraged business owners to stay involved in the court and prosecution process, to lay charges when recommended by police, and to come to court when necessary – which is rare when laying theft or shoplifting charges, and even more rare when police are provided with video evidence.

“Shoplifting is a serious problem right across the board. We’re very sympathetic to that,” said Tkachyk. “We recognize that there’s a number of ways that shrinkage can occur. You need to know what your rights are, and our parameters surrounding the law. We cannot control what happens in the court, but if victims of crime participate in the court process, there is a better outcome.”

“If a criminal offence has been committed, you have the right to talk to police and determine the next steps,” added Tkachyk. “We want to work with all victims of crime. We want to be able to work with them to have a better outcome in the court system.”

Police say that the theft of meat is an ongoing issue in the community, as it typically either gets sold for money, or the theft takes place due to food insecurity in the area. Bogus refunds are also an ongoing problem for police, and officers stress that business owners should pay close attention to their inventory.

Tips to help cut-down on shoplifting include keeping the store organized, to eliminate any large displays for people to hide behind, to have a policy which does not allow backpacks or bags in the store, to greet shoppers as soon as they enter the business, provide adequate staff training, keeping your cash register near the exit or entrance, keep expensive or easily stolen items locked away, and to install a security system.

“Sometimes different height of displays can help. Shoplifting individuals love tall displays, as they can hide behind them,” said Szachury. “It’s also easy to have someone run a distraction, and then you can’t see what the other person is doing. Maybe you can reduce the amount of inventory you have in your store, as it’s easier to see what’s missing when there’s less products on display. Keep small items close to the till. You need to think like a shoplifter.”

Aside from shoplifting, many business owners had questions for Tkachyk and Szachury regarding the Trespass to Property Act. Business owners are able to serve a trespassing to property notice to anyone at any time, and the individual does not have to be caught doing anything illegal.

However, the police are not able to do the same on behalf of the business owner. The provincial Trespass to property Act does not give police the proper authority to intervene in the process. A Trespass to Property notice can lead to a $120 provincial fine. If an individual continues to return to the business, they could face a mischief charge.

“The session was an opportunity to build a partnership with local business owners, and to bring information and education on how to reduce theft in the community and within businesses,” said Tkachyk. “Property owners need to evaluate what they need to do to protect themselves. We all have an obligation to protect our investments, our vehicles, our homes, and our businesses.”

Tkachyk added that the city has never seen a gunpoint robbery in her policing career. Police have seen knife-point or fraudulent gun robberies, however they are extremely rare. Police reminded residents that your life and your safety, as well as your staff’s, are the priority – not any property or cash that could be stolen.

Constable Szachury noted that she has spent time with local students and has given many presentations on the dangers of shoplifting, in an effort to reduce youth crime.

Chief of Police Doug Palson, Economic Development Officer for the City of Dryden Tyler Peacock, and Dryden Fire Chief Ryan Murrell were also in attendance. The session took place at the Dryden Fire Hall #1.

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