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‘Not exactly accurate’: Winnipeg police try to clarify robbery call last weekend

The Winnipeg Police Service is trying to provide clarity regarding the media coverage of a robbery at a McPhillips Street business over the weekend.

CTV News Winnipeg reported on Wednesday that the bakery Cinnaholic was robbed on the weekend when someone went behind the counter and stole money from the cash register.

“At that point in time, our staff became very frightened and scared and ran, exiting through the back door because they’re really concerned about their safety,” Colin Finlay, the owner of the store, told CTV News Winnipeg on Wednesday.

He also noted when they called 911 they were told “we’ll get someone out to you if we’re not too busy.”

Insp. Gord Spado addressed that comment Thursday at a news conference, wanting to provide more information on what was said during the call.

“We understand that these types of events, not only for the employees, but for the owner of the business, are traumatic events, and they’re very stressful time in people’s lives. So accurate articulation of what happens after that – that is difficult, because you’re basing your comments on emotions, and how that event made you feel,” said Spado.

He said what was told to media was “not exactly accurate” of how the call went.

“I’ll actually read a short transcript of what I took from the recording. ‘It might be tonight when we get in touch with you, but it could be tomorrow. It depends on how busy we are. But you don’t have to stay there.’”

Spado said the call taker had already been told the thief had left and that the business was closed.

“’You can go ahead and close up. I’ll put in here that you’re the contact. Like I said it could be tonight when we get in touch with you. It depends on how busy we are, and we can’t ever predict when those other emergencies come in. So it could be tomorrow as well. So you don’t have to stick around. We’ll call you when we’re on our way,’” Spado read from the rest of the transcript.

He said when people are told police might not show up right away, it’s so they know they can “get on with their lives and get closure, rather than sitting and waiting for a police response that has no timeline.”

Spado said the robbery was classified as a Priority 3 – which is a urgent person event that requires urgent intervention – but noted it could have likely be downgraded to a Priority 5, a non-urgent person event, but it wasn’t.

“We would love to have been able to get there earlier, but not even all Priority 3’s are the same. You have to look at the circumstances in each call…so a deferred response is not unrealistic in that case.”

Finlay told CTV News Winnipeg that two officers eventually helped him, but only after they were flagged down while on a meal break in the same area. Spado did not dispute that this likely happened.

Spado added police didn’t take issue with what the owner told media, how they felt during the robbery, or the media coverage of the robbery.

“They heard what they heard, and that’s how that made them feel. I recognize in that moment, that’s how they felt. I just wanted to set the record straight that, as reported, that is not what was said.”

During the news conference, Spado was also asked why this specific incident was being pointed out by police.

“I was asked to look at this call and address this call. So as far as why this one? I don’t know if that would be a question maybe for the chief or the executive table.”

This all comes as the city deals with an increase in retail thefts. On Wednesday, the Manitoba government said it will fund overtime pay for four police units in Winnipeg to deal with problem areas, like retail stores and restaurants.

While he couldn’t speak on any specific details, Spado agreed retail theft is an issue.

“That’s why a lot of retail businesses that can afford it will actually hire special duty officers to be present at their locations. Do we have a retail theft problem? Absolutely we do.”

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