Shoplifter detained on public bus by private security

Two Dollarama security guards detained a shoplifter on a public bus following a chase early last Friday evening.

By Rachel Ward

Several stores at the Halifax Shopping Centre, including the Dollarama, employ private security to prevent shoplifting (Rachel Ward photo).

Two Dollarama security guards detained a shoplifter on a public bus following a chase early last Friday evening.

According to Constable Brian Palmeter, the guards witnessed the man stealing from the discount store in the Halifax Shopping Centre and pursued him onto the number 2 Metro Transit bus parked at the shopping centre’s bus terminal.

The police received a call at approximately 5:30 p.m. from Metro Transit, said Palmeter, saying the bus driver witnessed a conflict between a man and two security guards.

The man has since been banned from Dollarama for six months, under the Protection of Property Act, said Palmeter, but he has not been charged with theft. The recovered stolen merchandise was returned to the store later that evening.

“Someone running, I wouldn’t say it’s uncommon but it’s not something that happens every day,” said Palmeter.

Security guards may arrest anyone committing a crime on or in relation to the property they’re hired to protect through section 494 of the Criminal Code of Canada, commonly known as citizens power of arrest.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper proposed Bill C-60 to amend the law in February, which would allow citizens to arrest a person within a reasonable period of time, should the police be unable to do so.

Under the current law, shopping mall security manager Brad Nicholson said that to arrest a shoplifter, the guard must see the thief select the merchandise, conceal it, avoid the cash register, and leave the store.

“Once they leave the location, then we can make the arrest,” he said.

Safety is a factor in a decision to chase, he said. “For a $10 t-shirt on a Saturday afternoon in a packed mall, (pursuit) would be putting people at risk.”

His security team stays on its own property during a pursuit as well, he said, which is limited to the shopping centre’s common areas, parking lots, the bus terminal and other nearby businesses.

“Technically, you can pursue someone, but as long as continuity is maintained,” said Nicholson, “but getting onto a bus… technically, that’s not our property; it’s the property of Metro Transit.”

Plainclothed security guards, also known as “floorwalkers,” are often hired by stores to prevent shoplifting, he said. They are in-store security, not part of the mall security jurisdiction. Other local stores such as Sobey’s, Sears and the Bay use these security guards.

A man recently hid from shoplifting security on a Metro Transit bus (Rachel Ward photo).

Nicholson said a loss prevention security firm was employed at the time of Friday’s arrest, but the firm could not comment. The firm said its employment with Dollarama was sub-contracted by a larger security firm with a no-media contact clause in the contract.

Palmeter said guards must “deliver” the culprit to a police officer, so shoplifting calls are frequent. “This happens all the time,” said Palmeter. “(Security) can make arrests; they’re empowered to do that.”

Lori Patterson, Metro Transit spokeswoman, echoed him, saying Metro Transit “works closely with police” regarding crimes from shoplifting to missing persons.