EDMONTON -- A major liquor retailer is teaming up with the Edmonton Police Foundation to fight liquor store thefts.

Alcanna, which operates Liquor Depot, Wine & Beyond, ACE Liquor and Nova Cannabis, among others, will provide $500,000 for the first community "challenge" under the new Community Solutions Accelerator (CSA).

The CSA wants entrepreneurs to combine integrated data, new hardware and artificial intelligence to solve the growing theft problem. Half of the $500,000 will serve as prize money for the winning entry. 

According to the Edmonton Police Service, officers responded to 9,565 calls for liquor thefts in 2019.

“We are fortunate and grateful to have Alcanna be the first corporate partner to step up and help to problem solve an issue that impacts not only this entire industry, but our cities across the province and nation,” said Ashif Mawji, chair of the Edmonton Police Foundation.

Mawji believes the majority of thefts are committed by organized crime and feed meth addictions.

James Burns, Alcanna vice chair and CEO, is tired of staff and customers being threatened on a daily basis. He said there were three thefts at Alcanna stores on Sunday alone, and loss prevention officers helped police make arrests in over 400 incidents in the fall of 2019.

“In co-operation with EPS, we have tried various approaches to get these robberies and thefts under control, but with minimal success to date. The risks to the safety of our employees and customers means we must try everything we can to find a creative resolution.”

The remaining $250,000 from the grant will be used for administration, commercialization, and marketing of the new solution.

Submissions will be shortlisted in April. The ideas will be implemented during a minimum 90-day field trial beginning in mid-May.

The CSA selection committee expects to announce the successful submission in August 2020.

Edmonton-based Alcanna sells liquor and cannabis in 270 stores in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Alaska.