It’s a list of the most popular items shoplifters love to steal, and it’s about people we don’t usually suspect of criminal activity. But ‘the good news?’ Meat is as popular as ever!
This headline is eye-opening on several levels:
“Designer clothes, meat, seafood and groceries topped the list of most common things stolen in Calgary in 2015.”
Calgary is in Canada, correct? So there’s not only an end-of-year news story about shoplifting by decent, polite, hard-working Canadians, but a story ranking which things are stolen the most often!
Of course, as is true everywhere that drugs are criminalized, much of the thievery up north is done to support people’s habits.
“The majority of [the thieves] are addicted to drugs,” Constable Lara Sampson of the Calgary Police Service’s retail crime unit told the Calgary Herald, noting that the stolen merchandise is often exchanged for narcotics or sold online for cash to purchase drugs.
But not all of the shoplifting is about drug use.
As the story detailed, two senior citizens in Calgary were recently charged with grand theft after cops raided a flea market in Alberta’s largest city, seizing hats, gloves, boots and camping gear valued at more than $56,000.
According to the Calgary Police, high-end outdoor clothing brands like Canada Goose and Arcteryx, are “really big” right now.
That’s not that surprising, given that winter temperatures in the Great White North are beyond “chilly,” as Canadians love to characterize the months from September to May. In fact, anyone who’s lived in the Midwest near the Great Lakes is familiar with a winter weather phenomenon known as an “Alberta Clipper.” For the uninitiated, let’s just say that if you love blizzards packing 40-mile-an-hour winds and 40-below-zero wind chill, you’re in heaven.
Or wishing you were a resident of that other destination in the afterlife.
A twofold problem
But let’s get back to the meat of this story.
According to the newspaper report, groceries continues to be a big problem for retail crime investigators, not only because of the economic impact on the retailers, but because of the food-safety danger to the eventual end users — especially with perishables such as fresh meat and poultry.
“It’s a health and safety issue,” Sampson said. “[The meat] might not be refrigerated, people stealing it may have communicable diseases; it’s not kept at the right temperature.”
Yeah, considering that far too many people who legally purchase meat, seafood and other perishables fail to maintain the “cold chain” from supermarket to household refrigerator or freezer, it’s unlikely that people stealing perishable foods would have food safety at the top of their list of priorities.
On one hand, there is a perverse satisfaction in knowing that what thieves value most are animal foods. Nobody gets arrested for boosting a couple cases of tofu — not, as veggie believers might argue, because people who don’t eat meat are morally superior, but because there’s no market for tofu — no matter how hot the merchandise or how big the discount.
However, the disturbing part of this story is that it’s not only consumers who end up buying stolen food items, but also shady restaurateurs, who then serve the illegally obtained products to their patrons.
Some of the restaurants suspected of buying under the table have been hit hard with rising grocery prices, the story quoted police constable Sampson as saying.
Often, culprits are sent out with a list of specific things to steal for the buyers, she explained.
“When you [have a thief with] five tenderloins, 14 legs of lamb, and two wheels of cheese, you know it’s going somewhere,” she said. “People are placing orders.”
As someone who’s spent much of his adult life in Chicago, Cleveland and New York City, that phenomenon is hardly a shock. Many a restaurant in those fair cities will occasionally source its entrees from product that “fell off a truck” somewhere.
Where do you think the term New York Strip came from?
But a black market for stolen meat? In Canada? That is tough to fathom.
For a nation that watches hockey highlight shows all year around, enjoys standing in long lines every morning to buy fast-food coffee, and constantly assures visitors that “It’s really lovely around here in summertime,” such venal behavior is truly shocking.
Dan Murphy is as food-industry journalist and commentator.