Violent crime continues unabated at Winnipeg grocery store, retailers

A Winnipeg grocery store continues to be the scene of violent incidents.

The Portage Avenue Foodfare location made headlines two weeks ago when three employees were taken to hospital after a person who had been kicked out for shoplifting returned with brass knuckles.

Foodfare owner Munther Zeid told 680 CJOB’s The Start that things escalated once again on the weekend when two people who were escorted out of the Portage Avenue store returned to the family-run business the next day and caused damage in the parking lot.

“The next day they came back mid-afternoon,” Zeid said.

“My brother’s car was out there, and a cousin of mine was on-site shopping and was parked next to it. They smashed that car and my brother’s car and lit them up on fire.”

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Zeid said the incident follows a previous attempt made to set his brother’s car on fire the day they were removed from the store.

A 17-year-old suspect has been charged concerning that attack.

Winnipeg police said the vehicle fire is under investigation, but that it’s too early to link it to any other incidents.

The Portage Avenue Foodfare location was also the subject of controversy late last month when a security video appeared to show an employee punching an alleged shoplifter.

Despite the increase in violence, Zeid said Foodfare isn’t going anywhere.

“We’re not going to let a few bad apples ruin our business. The community has always supported us,” he said.

“To take the store out of there… there’ll be nothing left for downtown. There are barely any stores or grocery stores.”

Click to play video: 'Staff at Winnipeg Foodfare store hospitalized after brass-knuckle attack, police say'

Staff at Winnipeg Foodfare store hospitalized after brass-knuckle attack, police say

Foodfare isn’t the only Winnipeg business struggling with violence and crime.

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Colin Finlay, owner of Cinnaholic on McPhillips Street, told The Start his business has done everything it can think of to curb crime. Yet even with cameras, unbreakable glass on storefront windows, and a panic button, the problem persists.

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Finlay said a particularly harrowing incident happened just hours before the business celebrated its second anniversary.

“A young lady ended up coming into the store, speaking to our staff briefly while she was looking around. We have a gate in place, (which) tries to deter people from going behind the work area. She smashed through it, breaking the locking mechanism.

“She grabs the cash register, rips it out, takes the cash out of it, meanwhile yelling at the staff.”

Finlay said none of his employees were injured in the incident, which he said was the fifth example of violence since the store opened. But they’re shaken up, he said.

Click to play video: 'More businesses investing in “unbreakable” glass'

More businesses investing in “unbreakable” glass

“They were fearful they were going to get hurt. They ran out the back door,” he said.

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“We value their safety above everything else — get out of the store, make sure that you’re safe — and that’s what they did.”

As a result of the frequent incidents, Finlay said the business has made the decision to no longer take cash.

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg police step up enforcement with retail theft prevention initiative'

Winnipeg police step up enforcement with retail theft prevention initiative

Winnipeg police said another armed incident happened at a banking institution — followed by a hair salon and a clothing store — on Monday afternoon.

Officers were called to the Portage Avenue bank just after 1:30 p.m., where they were told a woman armed with a knife had tried to take money from a teller who was giving it to a customer.

Although the suspect fled the scene on foot before police arrived, she was arrested 20 minutes later in the same block, after allegedly trying, unsuccessfully, to steal a cash register from the hair salon, then moving on to the store where police say she made off with a $100 pair of shoes.

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The woman, 30, was arrested at a fourth business in the same block, and charged with two counts of robbery and theft under $5,000. Police said they seized a knife during the arrest.

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