St. Paul Chamber Finding New Ways to Combat Theft

The St. Paul Chamber of Commerce is working on a new email database system to help combat and potentially warn merchants of possible thefts. Chamber President, Kevin Bernhardt, says after he was approached, twice in one week, by two separate groceries stores regarding large thefts he decided to get Chamber members together to discuss different options to help stop theft.

The Chamber held an unscheduled meeting Tuesday, which Bernhardt explains wasn’t exactly an emergency meeting, but rather one they didn’t want to hold off until their regular scheduled meeting; which wouldn’t be until the new year. The meeting was prompted after Bernhardt spoke with local merchants during the town’s Super Saturday event; which is a town-wide savings-driving shopping event, much like Black Friday. “I was going around, talking to some businesses, after the event and one of them, Extra Foods, took the opportunity the talk to me about thefts. [The owner] is concerned, she feels there’s a rise of theft in the area.” Coincidentally, says Bernhardt, “we had a board meeting the next day and the Co-op brought up exactly the same issue.”

Within two days I had a conversation with two different groceries stores and they’re both talking about the same kind of theft – Kevin Bernhardt President St. Paul Chamber of Commerce

“We decided to move quickly, and we got all the retailers in town together,” Bernhardt says they wanted to get the stores that are targeted by more than just shoplifters. The Chamber’s round table discussion was focused on more organized theft and shoplifting. For instance, Bernhardt explains the Co-op had a large quantity of meat stolen recently. “A group of people came into the store, one of them loaded up a shopping cart full of meat. They estimate about $500 worth of meat, and then they put cheaper products on the top of the cart. The individual who had done that, actually left the cart in the aisle and another individual came and got the cart. Meanwhile, these people had someone in the Co-op Mall, who was texting [giving instructions and look-out] and all of a sudden they took off, a car was ready and they made off with a cart full of groceries.” The Co-op was able to capture the crime on video and send it into the police to help catch the thieves; there have been no arrests yet. Bernhardt says the Co-op reports that the store’s chains have noticed a more organized approach to shoplifting across Canada.

“That’s organized, that’s a plan. When we hear about stuff like that happening, we think if they’re organized, we should be too,” Bernhardt says the Chamber’s first step is to create an email system. If a store is targeted and able to capture footage or descriptions, the store manager can email the Chamber, who will then vet the information and forward it to other area store managers. The idea is to not release the images or information to the general public or to social media, but rather have it available for the managers to let their staff be aware of whom to look out for or patterns of crime. Bernhardt says eventually the Chamber would like to connect with neighbouring community Chambers to expand the email database, but wants to have an opportunity to see how well the system works in St. Paul first.

The local RCMP were involved in Tuesday’s meeting and aware of the plans the Chamber has moving forward. The Chamber will also include the RCMP in the email chain, so they will be aware of the thefts, or potential thefts, at the same time as the businesses. Bernhardt reports the Chamber will be hosting another meeting regarding this topic in the new year.