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South Simcoe police retail blitz nets teens, hatchet-wielding suspect

Total of 94 criminal charges have been laid or are pending, with several cases involving organized criminals
20220418 South Simcoe Police
South Simcoe Police Service file photo

In an effort to tackle the rising issue of retail theft, the South Simcoe Police partnered with retail establishments for a 10-day blitz, resulting in a significant dent in criminal activities and the identification of numerous accused individuals.

During the blitz, police addressed both real time incidents and reviewed cold cases, achieving a remarkable 98% identification/clearance rate. A total of 94 criminal charges have been laid or are pending, with several cases involving organized criminals whose crimes span multiple jurisdictions, including one as far-reaching as Winnipeg. Of interest, only two young offenders were apprehended during the course of the blitz. Disproving a common perception that shoplifting is a youth related crime. Two occurrences saw offenders conducting thefts while in the presence of their children. A total of 51 occurrences were cleared and 35 subjects identified with several being linked to multiple thefts.  None of the items stolen in this blitz would be considered items of sustenance.

Some notable highlights of the operation include the execution of two criminal code search warrants, with additional warrants pending in the coming weeks. Furthermore, two vehicles were seized and returned to rental car agencies, two separate robbery investigations were solved with warrants issued, and a cold case employee assault was closed when the offender was also identified as a direct result of the blitz. Arrest warrants are currently being prepared for many of the identified that were not directly arrested.  

Several incidents during the blitz exemplify the diverse nature of retail theft in our community:

  •  A 31-year-old Bradford man, accompanied by his wife and young child, stole a personal massager from a local retailer. When confronted by store security, the man fled on foot while his family fled in a vehicle that was parked in a handicap space near the store exit, illustrating the preplanning and brazenness of some offenders.  Both adults were later identified, and both have been arrested and charged.
  • Two 16-year-olds were caught stealing 10 cans of spray paint. The volume of paint is concerning given a rise in vandalism in Bradford. Both were charged with theft under $5,000.
  • A trio of men from the EU here on international work visas were apprehended stealing tools, with one of them wanted in another jurisdiction for similar offenses, underscoring the importance of cross-jurisdictional cooperation among law enforcement and regional asset prevention teams. Initially, the trio fled from store security abandoning their stolen goods but were later arrested by police on Cty Rd 88. Inside their vehicle police located additional stolen property and professionally converted clothing that assisted in concealing their thefts.
  • Two men, one wielding a hatchet attempted a robbery at a local business.  Working together one intimidated staff while the other pried the one way door open to flee. The men got away, however witnesses were able to the recover the stolen property as it was abandon in the getaway. At this time a warrant is being issued for the arrest of a 49-year-old Newmarket man.
  • Police working together with retail theft experts were able to identify a 49-year-old Beeton man responsible for an April 2024 robbery. The male armed with a hammer threatened store staff then fled with power tools. A warrant has been issued for the male’s arrest.
  • Two East Gwillimbury females were apprehended after stealing clothing from retailers at the Tanger Outlet mall. Mall security, working with their retailers, were able to track the accused through the mall and to their vehicle where police recovered a significant amount of stolen merchandise. The females were both charged with theft related offences.
  • A 56-year-old Bradford man was arrested after the police investigation linked him to 11 different thefts spanning two different retailers resulting in excess of $10,000 worth of merchandise being stolen. The male has since been arrested and charged.

Retail theft poses a significant economic burden on communities, with losses exceeding $600,000 reported by just a handful of Bradford and Innisfil stores in 2023 alone. The successful blitz, conducted without impacting other policing responsibilities, serves as a model for community mobilization and engagement. By partnering with affected businesses, police were able to leverage the expertise of private retail theft specialists to secure stores, allowing police to take over arrests and process offenders.  

A working group has been established to facilitate ongoing collaboration and information sharing between all involved parties, ensuring a coordinated community-based approach to combating retail theft moving forward. These partnerships have proven invaluable during the blitz, with many offenders identified as targeting multiple stores in our community. This operation has exemplified the power of partnerships between police and local communities working together to solve community issues.