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Labrador business loses $21,000 in two years from theft, armed robbery


When people think of shoplifters, they picture thieves sneakily putting items into coat pockets, hoping they weren’t spotted by staff or cameras, then casually walking out the door.

Surveillance footage taken recently at White Crescent Variety in Happy Valley-Goose Bay shows a much bolder thief. The young woman grabs a case of Budweiser out of the cooler, acts like she’s waiting in line then, in plain sight, walks out the door with staff immediately giving chase.

According to store owner Darrelle Morris, this is a typical theft that occurs at the store three or four times a week.

“They just go to the cooler and they, most times, stand in line, until they make it to the cashier and make a dash for it. Or they wait until the cashier is busy with another customer and they run out the door,” said Morris.

“I charge them immediately because, generally, they get probation and are not allowed around the store.”

When asked what items are typically stolen throughout the week, Morris quickly gave a one-word answer: “beer.”

Morris, along with her husband Dave own two other convenience stores in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and have no problems with shoplifting at those two other locations. She believes the White Crescent store is a target due to the number of people who hang out behind the store drinking beer during the summer months.

“As soon as we took over the store on White Crescent, it started. It was already an existing problem,” said Morris.

“Most of the people who are stealing from us are from the transient population and they’re drinking in the trail behind the store.”

Stores in Newfoundland and Labrador only make a razor-thin profit on beer sales, so when someone steals the product it represents a significant loss to the business. Morris calculates for every case of beer stolen, it will take the sale of 25 more cases to make up for the loss. It has made Morris and her husband wonder, given the amount of thefts, if it’s even worth selling the beverage at White Crescent.

“You don’t make anything on beer – very minimal. Then you have someone coming in and taking your profit. We can’t continuously take a loss,” she said.

“We have to take the loss ourselves. Obviously, we can’t call insurance every time someone steals a case of beer, because it would just drive our insurance (rates) through the roof.”

To add to the Morris’ frustrations, the court system hasn’t been any help in recouping lost money from theft. Since 2017, White Crescent variety has lost $21,000 from theft, an amount that also includes money stolen from a 2017 armed robbery. According to Morris they have yet to receive a penny from court-ordered repayments.

According to Morris, the armed robber was ordered to pay back the money he stole, but was given 99 years to do so, making it unlikely for the business owners to be fully paid.

Morris says she and her husband don’t make court appearances anymore, unless they are subpoenaed to attend.

“When we were new to it, we we’re always going to court…but we just stopped because it’s too time consuming,” she said.

“One time we sat in court everyday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the whole week.”

“It’s a lot of work for nothing.”

Morris believes there needs to be a better legal mechanism in place for businesses to get money back from the people who steal rom them. In the meantime, she and her husband are trying to think of ways to reduce theft. But affordable options for a small business can be hard to find.

“We can’t afford to have a security person there and that’s what we need. But we’d never be able to have that; what small business can really?”

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