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'Troubling trend': Rogers urges YRP to crack down on store robberies

Rogers Communications asks York Regional Police to step up their presence and investigations after a series of violent crimes have left retail outlet employees and customers terrified, and thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen
York Regional Police photo

Rogers Communications is urging York Regional Police to step up their presence and investigations after a series of violent crimes have left retail outlet employees and customers terrified, and thousands of dollars in merchandise stolen.

Cheryl Fougere, director of government relations at Rogers Communications, asked York Regional Police to patrol the areas of the stores, investigate offences, and prosecute criminals at a police services board meeting March 27.

“We understand resources are tight, but our ask is for patrols, investigation and prosecutions,” said Fougere. “Perhaps some of the officers can complete paperwork in our parking lots. We know that a simple presence can be a deterrent.”

She said criminals are targeting cellphones to sell on the international market and fund other criminal activities in the community. One particular brand stands out in her eyes.

“I’d like to make it clear that what we're seeing is a single type of phone being targeted and that is Apple phones,” said Fougere. “Apple phones are targeted because they are unwilling to brick them internationally.”

Bricked phones are not responsive to action, rendering them completely inoperative and useless as devices. Manufacturers are capable of bricking/locking phones.

“It can be locked but Apple chooses not to do this,” said Fougere.

Retail stores are destroyed and ransacked as employees and customers are berated, she said, and the robbers are carrying weapons to inflict injuries.

“With weapons in the hands of criminals, our staff, who are often young or new Canadians, are some of the innocent victims who often do not return to work following these attacks,” said Fougere. “We had incidents occur where the armed assailants zip-tied our employees in the back rooms and assaulted them.”

Chief Jim MacSween said he understands the severity of crime at Rogers stores and is open to working with staff to crack down on violent crime.

“We welcome any opportunity for further collaboration in keeping our communities safe and keeping employees safe,” said MacSween. “Dealing with this is a troubling trend.”

Rogers has implemented measures to reduce violent crime and ensure employees are safe while safeguarding products, she said. Employees are provided virtual reality robbery training, retail situational awareness, security onboarding, refreshers on preventing customer altercations, access control, safety in retail, shop theft, a new hire curriculum, and a more than 60 process documents on internal sites on what to do in these situations.

“Once they complete their in-class training, we give them a virtual reality demonstration that allows them to experience what could happen when things go wrong,” said Fougere. 

She said cellphones are kept in time-delay safes that staff can not override, CCTV cameras are installed inside and outside the stores, GPS tracking devices have been installed, staff has access control, emergency pendants are worn that can send a signal for help, and external intercoms with internal monitors are among the security measures in place.

MacSween said the police force had dedicated services to commercial robberies and is encouraged by the partnership.

“At York Regional Police, we always suggest that crime prevention is a shared responsibility and it looks like Rogers is taking a number of steps here to further protect infrastructure and folks that work there,” said MacSween.

Deputy Chief Alvaro Almeida will work with Fougere to determine the next steps.

“We have tools at our disposal here through business intelligence and a lot of analytics that can help us broadly understand the issues and get ahead of those before they occur in the future,” said MacSween.